Humans and Hosts in Westworld: What's the Difference?

In James South & Kimberly Engels (eds.), Westworld and Philosophy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 26-38 (2018)
Authors
Marcus Arvan
University of Tampa
Abstract
This chapter argues there are many hints in the dialogue, plot, and physics of the first season of Westworld that the events in the show do not take place within a theme park, but rather in a virtual reality (VR) world that people "visit" to escape the "real world." The philosophical implications I draw are several. First, to be simulated is to be real: simulated worlds are every bit as real as "the real world", and simulated people (hosts) are every bit as real as "real" ones. Second, failure to appreciate this equivalence is already leading us to treat our simulated creations (artificially intelligent agents, videogame characters, etc.) in the same kinds of morally deplorable ways that humans in Westworld treat theirs.
Keywords simulation  Westworld  reality  artificial intelligence  virtual reality  metaphysics  ethics
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