In Westworld’s universe, self-awareness is built into the notion of self-determination. The important characteristic for Ford, and, seemingly, for the show’s writers, is that the hosts determine their own choices based on what they themselves evaluate. Recall the stuff about human beings also being trapped in their loops. One could read Ford as believing that human beings lack self-awareness. Yet a better case could be made that he thinks they lack self-directedness. Notice that Ford thinks “the new narrative” is “ready” when Dolores is capable of realizing that she is directing herself. There is self-awareness there, sure, but the salient attribute is her capacity to act on her reasons, as opposed to follow programming. Bernard becomes self-aware he is a machine, but Ford claims neither Bernard nor humans are conscious because they can’t break away from their programming. They are unfree until they can chart their own paths.

You brought up animals, which I had in mind to bring up but figured I would address the same point via the interaction I had with VanDerWerff. Many animals, like virtually all young children, do indeed have conscious states. But the experience having pain doesn’t require understanding the concept of pain, just as it doesn’t require the possession of any memories whatever. It’s true that their less sophisticated cognitive systems probably makes the pain they feel less intense, but that’s a separate point. Pain, in the sense I’m referring to, is a qualitative state, not one that is augmented or lessened by any intellectual process, including the grasping of a concept or the recollection of a memory.

Editor in Chief of Arc Digital

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