On the surface, Westworld, the place, is a vast theme park meant to simulate the wild west of the 1800s, centered on a town inhabited by “hosts,” robots with sophisticated artificial intelligence software designed to make them characters with whom human guests can interact. The wealthy can enjoy the pleasures of a saloon and a brothel, go off chasing bandits as part of a posse or indulge in darker fantasies as the so-called Man in Black does. But Westworld is an experiment designed to create robots that can pass a Turing Test and thus become indistinguishable from human beings. 

A Turing Test was designed by the British computer genius Alan Turing in the 1950s.

He suggested that the way to determine whether or not a computer had achieved consciousness was to put to it and a human being a series of questions. If the answers from the computer and the human were the same so that one could not tell who was one or the other, the computer had become conscious.

Dolores, the robot rancher’s daughter, once labeled as one of the oldest hosts in the park, seems farthest along to becoming a new type of human being. She is starting to display independent patterns of thought and action, such as when she kills an insect at the end of the first episode. We see her being constantly questioned by experts at the park.

The purpose of creating a new race of humans is not made clear as of this writing. One idea is that the robot people are being built to become space colonists, designed to withstand the rigors of space travel to a far greater extent than are ordinary humans.

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Of course, as are most stories that involve complex technology, Westworld will likely show how such advances could go wrong. The 1970s movie depicted a robot revolt, where the cybernetic denizens of Westworld suddenly decided to rise and start killing their guests. What will happen in the park if a number of the hosts become self-aware and decide that they are angry with their creators is something open to speculation.