Now that HBO‘s West World has concluded and a relatively safe amount of time has passed I don’t think I necessarily need to make a **SPOILER** disclaimer… but then again you never know. So… yes… this will potentially include **SPOILERS** so don’t read any further unless you’ve a) seen West World b) don’t care about the secrets of West World.
Recently I had a job that required a 4-hour one-way commute. I made this trip a total of six times which gave me roughly 24 hours to think about a variety of subjects but mostly contemplating HBO‘s series West World. I know that people tend to focus on the science fiction aspect of the show, how an Artificial Intelligence can gain sentience. I think the show does much more than highlight that but also provides a statement on what it means to actually be human and how we are shaped as individuals.
Foundational moments are something in the show used to anchor the AI Hosts to their lives. Foundational moments are nothing new to understanding how humans develop, it is essentially a person’s “defining” moment with one small tweak. Most people see their “defining” moments as something that defines them from that point infinitely going forward. A hosts “foundational” moment upon which their personality is built has the ability to be changed through re-programming.
I actually think the “foundational” moment is more akin to human nature, simply because it has the ability to change. While someone may have a moment that defines them for a period, the chances are there will, in fact, be another moment with the power to redefine a person. This change, like all change, can be unnerving and scary but nonetheless it will happen. Over time the effect that moment has on a person can wane but will remain underlying. Stacking defining/foundational moments atop one another is how critical thinking is developed.
On the show, the hosts follow pre-defined “loops” as each day dawns. These loops can change based on the interactions they have with guests but at the core, this loop defines their behavior including the behavior they have with each other. The minute details of the loop can be illustrated by the can that Dolores ALWAYS drops from the satchel and rolls in the dirt. While the person picking up the can may differ and therefore the course of the day can change, the can always rolls.
I am a creature of habit. I tend to have a similar routine in the morning, go to the same Dunkin’ Donuts for my ice coffee, and travel along the same paths to get where I am going. I am, for all intense purposes, on a loop of my own. I also find myself in similar circumstances when it comes to interacting with people. My initial text for the day to someone can usually be narrowed down to 1 of 3 variations per person. There are certain places I go only with certain people, and certain things I would only do with specific people. Granted things may take a turn and we can become disassociated from the pattern. There remains the possibility that at some point we will fall right back into that familiar pattern… right back into the loop we were in.
The power of choice is a determining difference that defines us as humans. On the show they point out that while the hosts think they are making choice… well the truth is they are just following their programming. In the season finale, the choice to divert from their programming is illustrated both by Maeve getting off the train that was poised to take her out of the park. While there had been a sub-routine programmed in called “Escape“, her decision to get off the train and NOT escape really illustrated the power of choice and how it is a defining feature of sentience.
Interestingly enough I am of the mindset that many of the so-called choices we make every day are simply illusions. The influence of others, societal expectations, and the extreme ease of just going along with everyone else help us to choose what would seem obvious. The easiest choice isn’t always the right choice to make and sometimes it can also mean the difference between having been programmed to the choice or making a decision truly independent of the influence of other factors.
If we really look at ourselves… look at our lives… the “loops” we fall into… the “choices” we make… are we truly able to consider ourselves sentient? The more I thought about it the more obvious the “loops” in my life became, the more apparent the “choices” I was making weren’t necessarily my own, and the influence by defining/foundational moments ebbed and flowed like a lapping tide.
Am I sentient? While science may agree that I am indeed it sure sometimes doesn’t look that way. More importantly, have I been deserving of such human defining sentience? The answer to that question can’t be found here… it can be found in the results of what I actually do.
I’m not a fan of math, yet numbers are something I seem to constantly be drawn to and enamored with in a weird love/hate relationship. As a subscriber to chaos theory math often represents the ideological order in chaos. During our lifetimes there are numbers that can statistically tell us the likelihood of an occurrence. I often turn to them to try and make sense of what has happened and occasionally while divining the possible future.
The odds of winning the Powerball Jackpot was 1:252,200,000.
The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is 1:12,000.
The odds of dying between 35-44 is 1:663 (for men).
We get 1 and only 1. That is the simplest math in life to do. Yet it remains the hardest to truly understand, appreciate, and more importantly make the most out of. Life is a one shot deal and our odds of getting it correct the first go around us somewhere around 1:9,176,628,503.
Despite the math, against all logic, contrary to all that we know will come to pass… we continue to hope against the odds. It is that hope which keeps us going through everything and eventually, at some point, the odds will actually be in our favor.
Numbers aren’t everything, although they do play a big role in what we consider to be the universe. We already know the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything…
… and the odds have just swung in my favor.
Needless to say… I’m totally ready for this year’s Hunger Games.
It’s 4:37am… and obviously I’m not sleeping. Instead of counting sheep I’m pondering a few things I saw on the internet today and so I figured I’d share in a bullet list and of course I threw in a poll for some self-gratifying feedback…
Most people, upon learning that I made this decision, would ask two questions that I actually found pretty easy to answer. Nevertheless, I’m a creature of habit as everyone at MY Dunkin’ Donuts knows… all THREE of them (Dunkin’ Donuts stores that is)… so I figured I’d do what I love and blog about it here.
The first question was, “Why?” and there is an easy way to answer that.
I got bored.
When you go from working 100+ hour weeks to working none it’s a bit of a shock to the system. The first week, when I was in Pittsburgh, was great! When I got home… well I wasn’t feeling great because of a whole abscessed tooth thing but once I took care of that I could enjoy myself… which I did.
It isn’t hard for boredom to set in though. I was doubling my word count goals in preparation of NaNoWriMo this year, drank Dunkin’ Donuts, reading books, drank Dunkin’ Donuts, catching up on television shows I hadn’t watched in nearly a year, drank Dunkin’ Donuts, saw movies I had wanted to see in the theaters but never had the chance, drank Dunkin’ Donuts, took things personally while obsessing over things beyond my control, drank Dunkin’ Donuts, tweaked some websites (including going retro colors circa 2006 on this one in case you didn’t know), drank Dunkin’ Donuts, and fought off some Socialist-Communist Pig hackers from beyond the Great Firewall who have some sort of vendetta against cereal. I was pretty productive for someone unemployed.
I also ran up quite a tab at Dunkin’ Donuts… which is the price I paid for boredom.
The bad thing about unemployment is the lack of new funds coming in on a regular basis. I have been employed and paid regularly for 99.999999999% of the time over the last 30 years… so this was a new experience for me. Since apparently no one took me seriously when I asked to buy my books to support me, well I had to find something. The fact I chose First Response Ambulance should be obvious, but it’s unlikely for anyone to understand why unless you were actually there 20+ years ago.
I am someone who will never forget where I come from. If you cut me, for all analogical purposes, I bleed aqua… green for Forest Hills VAC and baby blue for Metropolitan Ambulance & First Aid Corp. Up until two weeks ago (yes, do the math, I wasn’t THE last but they followed soon after) if you looked at the 3 largest private ambulance companies in New York City they all shared one thing in common… in their leadership ranks there was at least 1 person who had been at Metropolitan Ambulance. Considering I had been at one of them, that only left two choices for me to take into consideration… and that was actually one of the easiest choices to make because not only does First Response Ambulance have my preferred blue in it, but it also has my preferred green in it too.
More importantly, they understand what this type of work is all about. They understand that this is about people, and not just the ones we fill the run sheets/charts/ACRs out on. They have a sense of team, they know where they want to go, their leadership is behind them, and that’s something I found refreshing. As someone who is all about opportunities, well, when the opportunity presented itself this time I took it.
Oh… and yeah… they’re hiring.
The second question was “What are you going to do?” which is easy to answer too… or maybe it isn’t depending on how you want to look at it and just how well you know me. My position on what EMS actually does is no secret so I won’t rehash it here (but if you’ve lived under a rock the last 5 years and want to know you can buy the book). It’s hard to pin me down to just one thing because I, like everyone else, am more than just one thing.
So I’m going to do the same thing I do everywhere else I work.
There’s going to be a need. There’s going to be a challenge. There’s going to be something to be fixed. There’s going to be some sort of magic to be crafted. There are going to be lives that need to be changed.
I’m going to make IT happen.
Whatever IT may be.