Episode 441: James Marsden is Suffering for All of Our Sins

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle HBO’s Westworld: Consciousness, morality, storytelling, and the coming robot apocalypse.

Ben Adams, Peter Fenzel, John Perich, and Matthew Wrather gather to overthink thought experiments in consciousness, the moral dimension of killing philosophical zombies, what makes murder bad, and whether consciousness is an algorithm, a mystical journey…or a fire.

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6 Comments on “Episode 441: James Marsden is Suffering for All of Our Sins”

  1. Margo #

    The property I keep comparing Westworld to is Battlestar Galactica, another show about a robot uprising.


    • Crystal #

      I was definitely rooting for the Cylons!

      I think rooting for the non-humans to destroy the humans is normal in these kinds of shows/movies.


  2. Rich #

    There were a couple of big ideas Westworld and the podcast did not explore. I think they could give some real insights.

    If people re-spawed in real life would we have a Thunderdome League on TV?
    What does death mean to someone who always comes back?
    What does violence mean to someone who can always be repaired?
    What is the ethics of doing violence to someone you cannot permanently damage or kill?
    How much fear do the hosts have to the events around them?


    • jmasoncooper #

      This is a bit of a stretch, but consider your questions from the Hindu perspective of Samsara, or the cycle of death and rebirth. According to them, we always do come back. We don’t remember, and we might not always be a human, but we will return. What does violence mean to a person who believes in reincarnation. The end of life is not an end. The questions of morality get tangled up with Karma in Hinduism, but would is it any different for the “hosts.” Is there not a level of frustration associated with the Samsara cycle of life-death-rebirth-life-death-etc.


  3. yellojkt Member #

    The Hugo-award winning novel “The Windup Girl” (insert Amazon affiliate link here) also deals with the morality of falling in love with an artificial intelligence being forced into sex work. It works with several of the same tropes about free will and property.

    It’s set in a post-apocalyptic Thailand which is the last holdout against multinational GMO firms. It would make at least as good a series as Westworld.


  4. jmasoncooper #

    My question to you podcasters comes from your discussion of consciousness and actions based on programming. You talk about the “realness” of an artifical intelligence that may only have its choices and options dictated by a program. Is not this limitation of choices similar to the actual limits placed on all of us by the causal determinism of the universe. Philosophers argue that since causality determines the universe, free will cannot exist, therefore all the choices we think we make, are just in fact the ultimate outcomes of the nature of ourselves/circumstance/culture etc. Your discussion made me think of a book from Jonathan Hickman’s run of Avengers/New Avengers in the series Time Runs Out. Beast and Hulk use determinism and chaos theory to predict what Steve Rogers will do to an acceptable degree of probability.


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