BookTuber Tuesday – City Arts & Lectures presents Rebecca Solnit & Brit Marling


“From ‘Upload’ to ‘Westworld’: The Cautionary Tales of Technology-Driven Series”

‘“Devs” mixes themes of religion with themes of technology because Garland considers them “versions of the same thing: They’re devotional, they’re faith-based, they make us feel dizzy, they make us feel small, they make us feel comforted,” he says, citing “the way in which the product launch of a new piece of tech can look like a very excited, feverish church meeting.”

All of these shows depict such devotion — often leading to great destruction — despite even the best of intentions. In “Devs,” Sergei (Karl Glusman) becomes physically ill when he learns what Forest’s code really does, and Forest has him killed. (Admittedly, he does resurrect him in that digital afterlife, making him what Garland calls “damaged” and “complicated,” rather than a “bad guy.”) “Westworld” spent its first two seasons peeling back the layers of both the people who both built and frequented the robot host-filled theme parks that let them play out their wildest childhood dreams, no matter how sadistic they turned out to be, and the hosts themselves as some of them gained awareness of their situation. And in “Next,” a pair of brothers (played by John Slattery and Jason Butler Harner) fall on opposite sides of what to do about an A.I. that develops into a super-intelligence and begins to manipulate the lives of those who are trying to shut it down.

Even though dramatic license is taken for the level to which these technologies evolve in these stories, the majority of the science is rooted in fact, which requires an ongoing research process, especially as the real world of technology changes over time.’


See also: Gods in our Machines. 


“We really have no idea what Dolores is trying to tell us, but all these options seem to suggest that she could be plotting something big. Assuming that her consciousness somehow survived inside Rehoboam, it’s likely only a matter of time before she escapes back into the real world or even onto the internet. If you think Westworld Season 4 is starting to sound like the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron, well, you’re not wrong.

The only thing more dangerous than a Dolores who’s made copies of herself may be a Dolores who can literally be everywhere at once because she no longer needs a physical body at all. Westworld Season 4 just got interesting.”


Sigh. Well, Dolores is probably a god I’d be OK with, since she “sees the beauty” in things. My guess is she’s going to make the hosts/robots do things they don’t want “to help them.” Maybe Caleb will even try and rise against her because he won’t know it’s her and she’ll be seen as another thing controlling their freedom like some new Skynet… I don’t see this going anywhere original anymore but we’ll see.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “Normal Novels” by Becca Rothfeld

“The redemption narrative she pushes in both of her novels is strikingly similar to the story at the core of Fifty Shades, which, despite its provocative trappings, is prudish at heart. In the movie adaptation of the best-selling series, the phrase “normal people” recurs over and over. Christian, who is traumatized by the most boilerplate childhood abuse, initially rejects the conventions of romantic relationships. He doesn’t “make love,” he tells Anastasia, he “fucks.” He doesn’t have girlfriends, just submissives who sleep in the room down the hall. From the first, Anastasia devises to fix him: she yells that the pair should talk like “normal people,” that they should share a bed “like normal people.” If sadomasochism is a running theme in Normal PeopleConversations with Friends and Fifty Shades of Grey, it is not because any of these novels evince the slightest interest in the transformative potential of subversive sex but rather because sexual quirks are readily legible as a form of deviance in want of normalization. We know that Christian has recovered as soon as he proposes to Anastasia and thereby catapults into a respectable, bourgeois marriage. Ah, the domesticating comforts of missionary sex with the lights on! Ah, normalcy, wholesome as a baby tooth!

Yet even as Rooney’s fiction valorizes the normalcy of its heroines, it also positions them as possessing extraordinary powers. In Fifty Shades, Anastasia is the only one who can soften the tyrannical tycoon’s hardened heart. In Twilight, Edward, the brooding vampire of everyone’s dreams, tells Bella her blood is uniquely delicious. For her part, Marianne is the “smartest person in school”; what Connell is blessed to share with her is “something he could never have with anyone else.” And Marianne and Anastasia are not only irresistible to their lovers but also to everyone else they meet. Every male character in the universe of Fifty Shades is inexplicably fascinated by Anastasia: her male friend lusts after her, her employer’s son asks her on dates whenever he’s back in town, and her boss commits a #MeToo-adjacent transgression when he confesses his adoration a little too forcefully. Marianne, too, is universally admired, and Rooney is not shy about emphasizing how much everyone in Normal People yearns for her. Connell often reflects that Marianne “is very popular and a lot of other men want to sleep with her.” She “has a lot of other romantic options, as everyone knows.” At one point, Connell tells her, “guys are constantly falling in love with you.”

So is she normal, or isn’t she? The truth is, the book fulfills a ubiquitous romantic fantasy precisely because it can’t decide. Who wouldn’t like to succeed in romance without really trying? Who hasn’t sometimes wished that their normalcy were exceptional? And who among the overeducated leftist set has not dreamed of surpassing their opponents without compromising their egalitarian virtue? The commercial and critical success of Rooney’s books is no mystery, for they give the comforting impression that, whoever you are, you too could make out with a preternaturally beautiful vampire or get handcuffed to a torture machine by a magnate with washboard abs. You too could publish the story or seduce the entire school. You too are different—and that is what makes you the same!”


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “‘Westworld’ Season 3 Finale Recap: Choosing Beauty” by Scott Tobias

“The end of David Fincher’s 1999 provocation “Fight Club” and the end of this week’s Season 3 finale of “Westworld” are essentially the same moment, one mapped onto the other like a Dolores pearl dropped into another host’s body. After a revolution deliberately premised on bringing anarchy to a well-ordered, antiseptic world, a man and a woman can only watch helplessly as the bombs detonate in high rises and chaos engulfs the city.

In an up-and-down season where “Westworld” never quite found itself — and seemed to stop looking — Engerraund Serac’s scheme was the one consistent bit of intrigue because his intentions always complicated his villainy. He did all the terrible, manipulative things that villains are supposed to do, right up to a torture scene with Dolores that recalls the ever-so-slow laser beam in “Goldfinger.” And yet there’s no mustache-twirling malice to any of his decisions, even when he’s taking a life. Serac and his brother saw the apocalypse coming and took the necessary steps to keep it from happening — or at least to keep it from happening as soon as it projected. If that meant eliminating free will and the occasional troublemaker, then so be it.


One of the paradoxes of the season is that Dolores intended to free the human world, not destroy it, but there may be no actual difference between the two. The thin shred of hope is that anomalies like Caleb will lead mankind to the anomalous destiny of survival, but those final shots are not optimistic. “Change is messy, difficult,” Dolores tells Caleb as they sidle through violent street clashes, but she never seems to be looking ahead to where that change might lead. That’s the privilege of being an immortal android: The planet doesn’t have to be inhabitable for her to inhabit it, so it costs her nothing to roll the dice for humanity. Serac may have been a snooty trillionaire, but he knew the stakes.”