Virtual reality isn’t a new theme. Cinema in the 90s was full of films and ideas revolving around this concept, where The Matrix was just the tip of the iceberg. Even Westworld wasn’t exactly written yesterday, since it’s a remake of the 1973 film of the same name. And yet, HBO’s TV version of Westworld is a creative and apocalyptic display – a useful key for deciphering the digital culture of millennials, who suddenly seem to have lost interest in being social (in the traditional sense). In which case, the Spectacles experiment (Snap is definitely the company that targets Millennials the most) shows admirable foresight.
There’s an unsettling question hovering in the background: how much will this new reality cause millennials to shake off their inhibitions and become slaves to their instincts?
Westworld plot (no spoilers)
A theme park in the future is populated by humanlike androids – the hosts. The androids are programmed to submit to all of the baser and most perverse desires of the guests, called the newcomers. Sex, death, unspeakable acts all take place in a Western setting that would be fit for Sergio Leone. The technology is under constant development in order to improve the ‘experience’ of the visitors, and the androids become more and more lifelike. We witness the line between man and machine becoming ever finer, and this is just the beginning of a series of problems.
A new virtual reality concept
But going back to the main question… what makes Westworld a symbol of the digital culture of millennials? The thing that leaps out immediately is that the virtual reality of Westworld isn’t just a computer-generated ‘artificial reality’, which is what normally happens in this type of show. Westworld is simply another reality, a ‘non place’ (a theme that’s near and dear to Michael Crichton). And this here is the most interesting interpretation. Other worlds aren’t created digitally, but new contexts are – contexts where human beings have the illusion of total freedom, where they can be cruel, or find an outlet for their instincts. They’re sure that their behavior won’t follow them, staying firmly confined to a reality that is completely disconnected to their daily lives… reputation, work, privacy and formal relationships seem to be completely irrelevant concepts.
But consider also the phenomena of sexting, trolling, epic fails… the psychological mechanism is pretty much the same. The screen – regardless of its size – acts as both a filter and a frame for another reality, where it’s easier to behave thoughtlessly.
Human beings and augmented reality
Reflecting on virtual reality isn’t purely sociological… in some ways it’s also predictive. The android hosts help us understand that a reality, even if it’s an alternative one, couldn’t exist without social exchanges. In Westworld, the machines need to be as similar to humans as possible, because any reality can only perceived as such if ‘the other’ can confirm it (hence the collapse of Second Life). It’s not just screens, but also headsets, glasses, and adaptive cameras, that have the power to be the context for another reality.
I'm characterized by a great curiosity, that drives me to achieve important goals and new challenges. I'm a web and digital marketer mainly focused on digital strategy and social advertising with design, programming and digital analyst skills.