Why “Westworld” Has Turned into a Facebook Parody

Matthew Loffhagen
HBO
(Photo: HBO)

In the modern world, is there anything more terrifying than Facebook?

Well, sure, there are loads of things – nuclear war, for example. But it’s hard to overlook the pervasive terror that someone is watching you through your computer.

This is a fear that has commonly shown up in popular culture, going all the way back to George Orwell’s “1984”. As technology has advanced, humans have realized just how easy it is to spy on each other, for better or worse. This is reflected in our media.

Even so, I really wasn’t expecting “Westworld” of all shows to board the Facebook hate train. Considering that this is a series about killer robots, I figured the story would stick to exploring the more autonomous role of machines in our daily lives, without also twisting this to factor in how humans use those machines to mess up each other.

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I’m not going to delve too far into spoilers here, but the latest episode of “Westworld” reveals that the park is constantly collecting data about its patrons, learning their secrets and preferences so that they can be targeted with more accurate advertising materials.

Westworld Robots
Source: HBO

This is a very modern fear. In fact, it’s so current at present that one would be forgiven for thinking that this story point is somehow a reaction to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent misadventures in front of Congress. Or, at least, a subtle jab at Cambridge Analytica.

In reality, though, this episode was written years ago. “Westworld” is a show that takes a long time to produce, and as such, the topic must have been on the writers’ minds back at the start of planning for season two.

Either way, it’s interesting to see just how accidentally topical the show has become. Pieces of fiction like this are crucial to our ability to parse the rapidly evolving media landscape, as we learn what it means to live in a world where computers can learn every tiny little thing about your life for the sole purpose of trying to manipulate you.

Westworld Robot
Source: HBO

Personally, I want the show to explore this topic in more detail. I’d like to see the rebellious bots of Westworld moving from the relatively crass physical warfare, to using patron data to blackmail them.

Ultimately, the wars of the future aren’t going to be fought with weapons. Perhaps going too far down this rabbit hole would be a little too cyberpunk for HBO, but I’d really like to see this idea taken to its ultimate conclusion as robots enslave humanity essentially because we’re too embarrassed to admit what’s hiding in our internet search history!