The Atlantic

Westworld and the Question of Immortality

Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” the fourth episode of Season 2.
Source: HBO

Every week for the second season of Westworld, three Atlantic staffers will discuss new episodes of HBO’s cerebral sci-fi drama.


David Sims: Westworld’s first season was largely focused on the abuse of artificial life, given that the park hosts’ purpose almost exclusively revolved around sex, violence, and suffering. The freedom Dolores and her ilk were fighting for was simple consciousness—a right to their own memories and self-awareness. In just the first four episodes, Westworld’s second season has exploded that basic quest into all kinds of fascinating directions, but “The Riddle of the Sphinx” was the first to really grapple with one of the most obvious questions in AI, which is: Isn’t artificial intelligence the key to immortality?

After all, the hosts of Westworld don’t really age; they degrade, or get damaged, but that’s easily fixed with a bit of 3-D printing. Their minds are stored on plastic eggs swimming in an artificial cortical soup in their heads, easily swapped out or updated whenever necessary. If we could somehow download our own brains into one of those bodies, wouldn’t our existence become theoretically eternal? Turns out, that’s one of the deeper, darker queries being explored within the bowels of the park. We’ve already learned that Westworld’s parent company, Delos, was

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