The interpretation of consciousness in WestWorld, like Evolved and my current project Pleroma’s Void, asks deep questions about the nature of the mind. What is consciousness? Is it simply a result of all the physical stuff going on in our heads? Or, is there something else, non-physical? These questions drill down into questions like: What is life? Do we have a soul?
Getting back to consciousness, I’ll quote Dr. Susan Blackmore to frame the challenge: “How [does] subjective, private, ineffable suchness of experience [arise] from an objective world of actual pencils and living brain cells[?]
With questions about consciousness dominating my writing, I have been intrigued by season two of WestWorld. It has been a deep exploration of consciousness and human morality, with a little free will vs. determinism thrown in at the end. The world in WestWorld appears based on a purely physical interpretation of consciousness, allowing the replication of people. Additionally, this interpretation allows individuals to achieve a type of immortality by uploading their consciousness into the systems. Yet the challenges of achieving “fidelity” between the original organic individual and the silicon clone has proven challenging and introduced flaws in the characters. (Heightening the drama, of course)
The world also has multiple layers of consciousness, with worlds within worlds. The second season demonstrated how characters can descend and ascend levels of consciousness as they become more aware. A “host” from a higher consciousness, or at least with access to a higher consciousness, has the ability to control other hosts within their world. I believe Maeve Millay has access, allowing her to become a type of super character. Everything apparently occurs within a hive mind, although which reality dominates, representing the highest consciousness, has been confusing at times.
Up versus Down has been particularly interesting to discern. By entering the hive of consciousness, does one go into a higher consciousness more closely connected to other individuals and unlocking new capabilities, or does one descend into a lower, baser form of consciousness in which one loses something in relationships that lowers inhibitions and morals? Not sure the show will answer this question, but I enjoy watching the story unfold.
My quibble with the world is the apparent argument that levels of consciousness are fairly similar, with increasing control exerted by one level over another. It is a rather basic view of consciousness but appears to follow the Matrix-like view of consciousness that implies we are in a world created by a higher level life form.
In Pleroma’s Void, the world has levels of consciousness but structured quite differently. Specifically, two very different types of consciousness exist.
The more WestWorld type of consciousness is a world based purely on the physical, a hive-like consciousness that marries organic and silicon minds together. This “superconscious” expands the subjective view of the individual, allowing people to share thoughts and emotions more intimately. But, it is also a more sterile consciousness than real life. Emotions come across as more a list of descriptive words and generic feelings than the authentic version. WestWorld has forced me to consider whether this type of world would also lower moral and ethical standards. Given the fluidity of consciousness in Evolved and Pleroma’s Void, the moral compass of humanity is broken.
The Basis of Pleroma Consciousness
The other consciousness in Pleroma’s Void is accessed through the subconscious mind of organic individuals. It is a consciousness based on the non-physical, or at least not the physical that our science can perceive (think dark matter and energy, or perhaps other dimensions depending on the cosmological theory). It is a different world from our reality. It communicates in concepts with more complex concepts building on the more fundamental concepts. For example, a square concept is built on a concept of a line and a concept of an angle. So, if we were to descend into a lower level of consciousness within ourselves it would have images built on shapes built on simple concepts. The further down we descend the more commonality between the concepts of our mind and other minds, enabling a unification of consciousness into one.
These two types of consciousness set-up a choice for my protagonist. A choice that could save or end humanity. A choice that asks deep metaphysical questions about our world and spirit.
If a silicon mind is developed, linked into a hive of consciousness, would we open up new capabilities? I believe a lot depends on the structure of the silicon mind. If it builds up thoughts from fundamental concepts, like the human mind, then it may open up new thoughts since we will still share the great commonality in life. If we short-cut it and try to simply upload our memories and cognitive abilities, I fear we will lose a great deal more than we gain.
One last point, St. Paul used “pleroma” to define the fullest maturation of the universe, especially humans. What I call the Supraconscious is the foundation of the pleroma, a kind of foundation that has existed since the dawn of time and a blueprint for humans to follow to evolve into pleroma. The secret to entering pleroma is to move out of our objects and live in the relationships between ourselves and others. It involves a constant centering/ de-centering of the individual, movement between the “desert” and city, contemplation/ engagement. Most of all it involves existing in a state of love that recognizes the value in all that exists.