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The Formula for Consciousness

Last week I finished watching the first season of Westworld, a sci-fi TV series that beyond its more apparently basic plot, theorizes about the nature of human consciousness and what it takes to be truly “human” with everything that being one of us implies (for better or for worse).

I’ll try not to spoil it too much for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, and I’ll go straight to the analogy I wish to convey:

In this Wild West theme park of simulation, where humans go to live fictional and immersive storylines as a way to escape reality, as well as to satiate their lowest instincts in a place where their actions have no legal consequences, these so called “hosts” (highly advanced cyborgs who believe to be humans themselves) are programed, sentient characters, living endless loops of tragic violence perpetrated by those “guests” who come to their world to play out their vile little fantasies of becoming violent bandits and merciless thieves. The cruelest, (most human things about this place) is that these robots suffer day after day without any recollection of what happened the day before. It’s as if Ray Bradbury or Philip K. Dick had fallen asleep while watching “Groundhog Day” after eating too many Cheetos and ended up having a nightmare about it.

The plot immediately thickens when we learn about the dispute between the two scientists who created the park and the clueless androids who inhabit it. One of them had the ambition to become able to emulate and recreate human consciousness, thus making his creations truly “alive.” The other one wished only to make them feel real enough to be able to sell the experience of human interaction at a larger scale and go to market as soon as possible.

The scientist trying to recreate consciousness comes up with a diagram of the way in which he initially thinks this “human element” could be put together as a “living whole”.  As I watched this being explained, I immediately recalled our recurrent discussions about machine translation and what it lacks to finally be able to bring the quality of its output up to a human level. That “soul” we have so eagerly talked about many times before. And, let me tell you that this diagram actually put things into perspective for me; so tune in next time to find out how it works…


To be continued…