Westworld-Style Robots Are Actually Not That Far-Off

Photo: John P. Johnson/Courtesy of HBO.
There's enough to theorize about within the incredibly complex self-contained universe of Westworld. The HBO sci-fi series is serving up twists a mile a minute — and with each new revelation, we come up with a dozen new questions. But when you take the concept of Westworld and place it in our world, things get even crazier. If you've ever wondered just how realistic the premise of the show is, you'll want to keep reading.
The biggest question is, of course, whether the robots of Westworld are achievable IRL. The short answer: Not yet (emphasis on yet). The folks at Vice's Motherboard dove into the fascinating topic in a great piece exploring precisely how far-off we are from being able to construct robots similar to the hosts.
Motherboard estimates that physically building the robots is about a century down the line. We know the hosts have at least some structural and material similarities to the human body (besides their appearance). They bleed blood, drink, and their skin seems to be organic. (Maeve got a staph infection.) According to Motherboard, we already have the capability to grow skin and organs in a lab. (But it's not clear how many human organs and systems the hosts actually have.) Oh, and of course, we're already creating robots that know how to walk, move their bodies, and make facial expressions like ours. (The hardest part would be creating a fully functioning, self-lubricating vagina.)
The truly tricky part? Mastering the artificial intelligence component. Our current AI systems operate within controlled, limited environments. On the other hand, the hosts on Westworld have mastered mimicking human intelligence and behavior in "the real world," as opposed to in a lab. They are be able to interact with every person they meet — i.e., understand and respond to the endless variety of human facial expressions, social norms, and nonverbal cues. Hosts can also adapt to situations they encounter by making choices on the fly. They aren't just spitting out preprogrammed lines or actions.

We all know how complicated human beings are. According to Motherboard, achieving AI like the kind on Westworld — where the robots are virtually indistinguishable from the humans — is likely 200 years away. Until then, we'll just enjoy poring over the fictional-but-could-totally-happen universe of Westworld.
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