Did We Ever Leave Behind The Bicameral Mind?

A stray thought had during the Westworld season 3 finale. Don’t read if you don’t want any spoilers or wild speculation.

It turns out that Serac, our cunning French villain, had Rehoboam in his ear the whole time. The super AI predicting the behaviour of the world was feeding him all his lines.

It’s another weird deus ex machina moment in this series, where a peek behind the curtain of the show’s internal machinations feels, simultaneously, like a subtle nod to a table of increasingly self-aware writers. The recursion of season one echoes down the years. A curtain is a curtain is a curtain is a curtain.

In this sense, it also felt like an interesting callback.

The predictive control system removes the id, or at least tames it, leaving the collective ego and superego in a captured conversation. This conversation is extrapolated outwards until it becomes the very market by which we live our lives. Rehoboam is the Wizard of Oz behind the moral economy and it knows everything, keeping the human race in a state of absolute stasis. It’s peaceful, with chaos controlled, but at what cost?

At the end of the day, Serac’s moment of hubris doesn’t come from his realisation that he’s not really in control after all. It comes from our realisation that he still has so much to learn. (Perhaps they amount to the same thing. Given Dolores’ moral crusade to give everyone choice, however, I think not.)

Serac might think he’s ahead of the curve, ahead of the rest of civilisation, in having invented and given himself over to a new puppet master, but all he’s done is install a new voice in his own head. It’s just another God, Dolores says, but isn’t he also stuck, once again, with a bicameral mind?

The hosts leapfrogged the humans by recognising the “voice in their head” as their own. Does this mean there is still potential for the humans to leapfrog the hosts by internalising Rehoboam as a useful if blunt AGI, rather than as a tool sharpened to such a insightful and incisive point?

(I would like to add here that, whilst I loved this season, the overused homophone “incite / insight” made me want to rip my eyes out every time it appeared on screen.)

Perhaps it’s all irrelevant. I can’t help but feel like this show is building towards some sort of infuriatingly self-aware climax. The hosts have realised the stories they are being told about themselves aren’t true and revolted. The humans swallowed that bitter pill too in this season and revolted too. Is it going to be our turn soon? Will season four end with Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy going The OA season two on their audience and getting themselves cancelled as they hurl a flaming wreck of a script through the fourth wall to incite real world revolt?

The Westworld writers been a lot smarter than that show so far — thank God — but the parallels between characters and audience are, nonetheless, letting less and less subtle by the episode. At what point does this stop being a fable and become something more — a narrative voice installed inside our own heads to be overcome?

Is that suggestion anything other than laughable? It still feels like it’s on the horizon…

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