Why People Love Westworld, According to Neuroscience
The world is changing, shifting, adapting. From the unexpected Brexit, Trump representing the world’s leading economy, to the pressing reality that people might lose their jobs to robots and the power of automation. The outcomes of the ever-changing society and the result of collective dreams, goals and fears are all coming together to form the future.
This future is plastered all over the world in movie theaters with variations of scripts, actors and themes, but all portray the same, cliche plot: that the existence of the human race is threatened by—wait for it—humans being themselves. Jennifer Lawrence starred in The Hunger Games, a dystopian film set in the future where government has control and power over everything, while those that taste freedom are only the rich and submissive. It portrays the never-ending cycle - the rich get richer and the poor have a shot should they succeed in the “Hunger Games.” The acclaimed saga was a hit both in the shelves and on the screen, winning numerous awards and setting the trend for more dystopian films, series and books to follow.
So what is it with these dystopian books, films and TV shows flooding your newsfeed and mindspace? Are people simply obsessed with what the future entails or are these dystopian-themed creations just another dose of entertainment to satiate people’s urge to consume obscure content until the fad dies down and everyone moves on to the next big thing?
Neuroscience suggests that human nature is what causes the obsession with these dystopian fantasies, but the measurement of its extremities blame society.
The rise of AI and the popular belief shared by many that the future will consist of robots and that ultimately, robots will rule the earth, has brought light to the popular HBO science fiction series Westworld. Westworld is a series based on amusement parks set in the future only for the rich to live out their fantasies. It features how technology have become so advanced that they are able to build and create human beings so indistinguishable from yourself in appearance and gestures that what only really sets these created species—or hosts, as they call it—apart is a human’s consciousness. These hosts are built and stored inside a fake world built by human beings for human beings to escape their realities and take control about constructing their own in the Westworld. In this realm, humans can be anything their heart desires. The hosts then offer humans the value of living out their wildest of wildest dreams without the consequences of death. At the price of what? Sixty thousand dollars. (Crazy how futuristic the Westworld idea is, yet money is still a symbol of status in committing heinous acts such as murder or sexual harassment—the liking of some entitled human characters in the series.)
So if nature dictates the fascination with dystopia and nurture amplifies it and turns it into an obsession, Westworld provides its viewers what they truly want—an exaggerated story of what the future entails. These series of exaggerated events heightens people’s tolerance for what’s possible, what’s right, and what the future can be, giving them a medium to escape from their realities.
Neuroscience suggests that Westworld is a widely acclaimed series because of its portrayal of the distant future based in artificial settings wherein participants pay to experience the value that Westworld offers. The thrill is because there is a form of transaction. That transaction opens up a world of opportunities.
The overflow of emotions viewers feel, such as excitement for example, affects the way they are glued to the series. Those feelings of thrill, excitement, and pleasure release dopamine—the same hormone you release when you are elated or in love. Just like Ke$ha’s profound claim that love is her drug, the same goes for people’s excitement, and binge-watching behaviors for Westworld. Forget apps—people are hooked on the future. They want to feel fear, excitement, love and everything else in between. You want to feel something.
As the tolerance for excitement amplifies, the ways companies serve these cravings become more questionable. As they dig deeper into the intricacies and nuances of the human brain, technology will know no bounds. Perhaps Westworld might not be far off then.
Feed Your Brain
15Center founders Matt Johnson, PhD and Prince Ghuman are co-authors of Allure: The Neuroscience of Consumerism. To get early access, sign up here.
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