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This is an uncommonly sensitive and insightful reading of the first episode of Westworld. I watched it twice and was a little less clear on some of its implications, so congratulations and thanks. A few comments on particular points follow.

It’s true that Dolores is “repeatedly raped,” but the first episode allows us to suppose that her daily storyline can take more than one path. This becomes more clear in later episodes and is established by a flowchart that appeared on the show’s tie-in website two or three weeks in.

The conversation in which we learn that disease has been eliminated also involves some talk of DNA, but it wasn’t clear to me that disease has ended because “human DNA has been tinkered with.” Nor does “the fact that we’re programmed” (by our DNA) necessarily mean our behavior is determined; not that you said so, but it may need to be pointed out that programmed systems can generate unpredictable output, by a means as simple as making decisions on the basis of a random number generator.

After four episodes, the show has given us only hints about the nature of the world outside the Westworld park, and this invites us to wonder about it. Likewise, the show allows us, maybe even invites us, to consider what lies beyond the world that we viewers occupy, but I’m not sure how far we can take this question, despite the attention you give to the simulation hypothesis. To borrow a note from the show’s second episode, if we can’t tell the difference between simulation and reality, does it matter? In the world of the show, it does matter (besides, it’s turning out that the guests and some of the hosts can detect or suspect a difference); in our world, possibly not.

In describing Elon Musk’s view, you speak of a simulation as though it were a game that someone is playing: “Even if we aren’t at the controls, someone is.” But a simulation isn’t necessarily manipulated by someone outside it; it may simply be observed, as is mostly the case in a Stanislaw Lem story called “Non Serviam,” or it may even be set running and ignored.

For what it’s worth, about two weeks ago I tried to address a few of the show’s issues, on the basis of the first two episodes, in this post.

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