The Frankenstein Complex in WestWorld and Our World
The Frankenstein Complex in WestWorld and Our World
  • Nick Antolini
  • 승인 2008.12.26 12:48
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Androids turn from entertainers to killers in WestWorld
When androids reach the point of becoming fully interactive and humanlike in every way, will people accept them into their day-to-day lives Imagine a time long ago, when masses of people hesitated to embrace the slightest hints of technological development. In the early 1900s, at the dawn of the age of the electric toaster, there may even have been a few skeptics or unstable types who thought their toaster might at any point 'decide' it no longer wished to do their bidding, after slaving for hours to warm their bread without getting so much as a thank you. People are quick to transfer human emotional responses to the machines they interact with much in the same way a dog may bark at a bag floating in the wind or its own ever-elusive tail.

Who hasn't yelled at their car thinking it provided it with some motivation to start "C'mon! One more time! Please!! $#%&# START!" Curse words are especially helpful in such matters. However, when the machine starts to look and act human, people tend to get a little uneasy, especially when they forget that they are actually dealing with machines. Back in 1973, a film aptly illustrated our fascination with and continued fear of a modern day Frankenstein scenario. In WestWorld, a company creates a dream vacation land called Delos where customers willing to pay the lofty price tag of US$1000 per day get the chance to live out their wildest fantasies in a carefully crafted environment which caters to their every whim. Delos is split into three areas based around different historical themes: the American Wild West of the late 1800s, Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe. The park is chock full of highly sophisticated androids that are programmed to grant the requests of visitors, which generally involve sex or violence.

Thus, in Medieval World, a guest practices chivalry by fighting an evil knight for the love of the queen. In WestWorld, sexual desire can be fulfilled via a trip to the old saloon with an in-house brothel. However, the iconic character, and key feature of WestWorld is the Gunslinger, an android programmed to initiate and then lose gun duels. The two main protagonists Martin and Blane, the latter of whom is making a return to the theme park, venture to WestWorld for vacation. Martin is reluctant to interact in the world at first, seemingly nervous and taken aback by the true to life qualities of the androids; the only noticeable difference between real human counterparts is an imperfection in the hands, possibly a lack of fingerprints. Eventually he duels it out with the Gunslinger, engages in a barroom brawl, spends a night with an android lass and starts to get comfortable with the fantastic surroundings.

Eventually, minor problems with the androids start to snowball and the technicians lose control over them. A robotic snake strikes Blane, the Knight in MedievalWorld kills the guest that he was programmed to lose to, and the Gunslinger hunts down Martin and Blane, who had been successful in numerous duels against him throughout their stay. The sentiment seems to be that it is right to be skeptical of highly advanced technology, especially if it seems harmless. If robots or androids become exceptionally intelligent and able to think for themselves, then there is the possibility that they will want to do things that conflict with human interests or that they could 'fall into the wrong hands' and be used for destructive purposes. At no point in WestWorld do we witness the other common fear that robots will replace humans in the workplace. Machines definitely work harder, longer and with much more consistency than humans.

Robot and potentially android maintenance would be relatively low once the technology is perfected, while the physical and psychological toll of constant stress and fear of unemployment is generally much harder to fix in human beings. Behind the scenes, there are numerous technicians, scientists and supervisors who calculate and quantify everything that happens in the theme park. The androids are meant to allow deep desires that are socially unacceptable to be fulfilled in a controlled environment with no human loss. Korea already has numerous androids under its belt in the form of EveR-1, EveR-2 and Alex Hubo, the now famous humanoid Albert Einstein look alike. These androids can to a certain degree successfully mimic human speech, hold relatively simple conversations and make a variety of facial expressions. Alex Hubo even has the capacity to walk. However, at this stage they don't appear to be truly interactive after a few staged conversations that any second year EFL student should be able to stumble through. Don't imagine that you'll be having political discussions with your pet android anytime soon.

Complex discussions with robots are years if not decades away as programming the endless possibilities for combined speech patterns is an enormous task, which fails to recognize the true key to mimicking humans: creativity. At this point, the closest thing to creativity would be a glitch of some sort, as so many great inventions of humans and nature alike begin with mistakes that are then guided into strokes of genius. Thus, at this point in time, androids are still in their infancy, that toddler stage in which they are mostly seen as entertaining, somewhat innocent and cute. Short of planting a bomb inside one, it would be hard to imagine them as threatening. The question remains whether there will be a real market for a live-in android or true love interest, a topic explored in the Korean science fiction film Natural City. Acceptance levels will likely vary from culture to culture, with Japan and South Korea as potential leaders.

Japan specifically already seems to have a steadily growing blow up doll market, the latest of which include robotic parts. It's not a far jump to talking and walking android housewives. Just how soon will robots become a part of our daily lives According to the International Federation of Robotics, about two million personal robots were in use worldwide in 2004, and another seven million will be by 2008. Here in South Korea, it is common knowledge that the Ministry of Information and Communication plans and hopes to put a robot in every home there by 2013. The Japanese Robot Association predicts that by 2025, the personal robot industry will be worth in excess of 50 billion USD per year globally, compared with about 5 billion USD today. Western countries, with all the fear of terrorist attacks and other assorted paranoia brewing in the unconscious minds of citizens and ever-present in the media, are unlikely places for robots at any time in the near future. Since people often do not feel they can trust each other, even supposedly close friends, how can they be expected to trust something that looks and acts like a human, but is knowingly programmed and has the potential to be tampered with or mishandled at any step before or after delivery Movies like WestWorld and its successors reflect such fears, but the fear is of Frankenstein himself, the monster's creator, more than the actual monster.


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