In the first moments of the show Westworld, an unidentified voice asks the character Dolores: “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” (“The Original,” 00:02:30-00:02:33). This inquiry invites both Dolores and the viewer to examine not only their perceived version of a reality, but also their explicit definition of nature or a state of being as such. This question is simultaneously ontological and phenomenological. It investigates reality in a changing technological modern world, a transformation which is particularly reflected upon in recent dystopian fictional television shows such as HBO’s Westworld (2016) and Netflix’s Black Mirror (2011). Technology has become ubiquitous in these shows so that their narrative universes are filled with new technological discoveries and reflect upon the interaction between the human and the machine, a plot development which reflects upon the presence of technological devices such as smartphones, smart-TVs and smart watches in our daily lives. Due to the presence of such technologies it is indispensable to inquire how human and non-human modes of being can be re-defined. In this aspect, it is especially important to investigate the reformulated role of technological non-humans or ‘artificial humans’. This essay attempts to question existing dualities between human/anti-human, nature/technology, and object/subject, all main concerns of the concept of the Posthuman, while investigating how a state of being can be re-defined if it entails both human and non-humans. This work will especially consider critical insights on the Posthuman provided by Rosi Braidotti, Katherina Hayles and Isaac Asimov. Overall, this analysis will demonstrate how a Posthuman approach to Westworld reveals human fears and desires regarding human-technology interactions.
Zita Hüsing is a PhD candidate at Louisiana State University. Her research interests include American and specifically Southern Studies as well as theories surrounding the Posthuman and Ecocriticism.