This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
When you clicked on this piece, who made the decision to read it? Was it you, or something behind your consciousness that’s really running the show?
At a Q&A following a public screening of Westworld season 2 finale, held this week at London’s BFI Southbank, co-creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan discussed the second season’s themes. The biggest, both agreed, were consciousness and free will. Does free will exist? And how does our belief or not in it affect our behavior?
“We started with this proposition in the finale,” said Nolan, “that ‘oh, actually humans don’t have free will’, which felt like a bit of a science-fiction conceit. Then the more we read about it, the more experimental evidence there is that that is actually the case.”
Nolan went on to mention a “fantastic article in The Atlantic several months ago” (a couple of years ago if this fascinating Stephen Cave feature is the piece in question) “that informed part of the last episode.” The Atlantic article, titled ‘There’s no such thing as free will, but we’re better off believing in it anyway’ basically lays out “that as far as we can tell, free will is an illusion,” said Nolan.
“If you image someone’s mind and put them in an experimental test, even doing something simple like, press a button on the left or a button on the right to click the right image, what they found—this has been repeated and has been in experimental record for thirty years—is that about a millisecond or so before you make the conscious choice to press the button to the left or the right, something else in your brain makes that decision for you. You can see it. You can see it in imaging.”
That “something else in your brain” is part of the inspiration for the Westworld season 2 finale’s title. “The name of the episode is The Passenger,” explained Nolan, “in part because there is this other thing really at the wheel—our subconscious.”
An easy way to picture it, said Nolan, is to think of the The Simpsons’ opening credits. “If you remember the beginning of The Simpsons, where Maggie has the little fake steering wheel? That’s consciousness,” he explained to laughter at the screening.
“Marge is at the wheel, we don’t get to talk to her, we’re Maggie looking out the window and imagining we’re making decisions and mostly of the phenomenal evidence seems to suggest that we’re not making decisions at all.”
The Westworld season 2 finale airs this Sunday on HBO.