Westworld: Understanding Maeve's Path Towards Self-Awareness

In last week's episode of Westworld, we got a long glimpse into the mind and programming of the park hosts. When Maeve suddenly came to life in the bowels of Westworld's command center, a body shop employee showed her how different she was from a real human being. In addition to watching Maeve's actual "thoughts" (or in this case, a complex program that analyzes events and crafts responses) form on screen, the show also revealed that every host's personality was created via a complex and malleable chart of personality traits and attributes.

The host's personality chart wasn't that different from a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet, where players distribute points in certain attributes to help their character in certain situations. A host with a high "charm" rating might be able to talk and flirt her way out of trouble, but someone with a low self-preservation stat might wind up in the body shop getting bullets pulled out of their chest.

These personality charts are also changeable and are often edited by the programming team to give hosts new personalities when they take up new roles in the park. While someone else (heavily implied to be the mysterious Arnold) has been making major edits to the hosts' personalities, Maeve took the opportunity to make some changes to her own stats.

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In addition to tweaking some of her other stats, Maeve had the techs up her "bulk apperception" stat to its maximum level. One of the techs briefly explained in the episode that apperception was a measure of intelligence, but it actually has much deeper implications for the show's slowly building plot of the hosts becoming truly self-aware.

Apperception actually has nothing to do with intelligence, but rather a person's ability to make sense of an idea or event in the context of past events in that person's life. In layman's terms, it's the ability to understand something by comparing it to past experiences. People appercieve things in different ways based on their experiences, which makes it a fundamental part of how humans think and process ideas.

A good example of apperception is watching how two people react to the same object. A 16 year old who gets a used car might see that car as a great gift because it enables them to drive, but a rich person given the same car could see at as insult because they're used to driving better.

Because apperception is a bit of a complex concept, it can be hard to grasp why that particular aspect is so important to the hosts of Westworld. In some philosophical circles, apperception is considered critical to self-consciousness, as it effectively controls how a person thinks and experiences life. Basically, apperception is one of the fundamental building blocks to self-awareness and it exists within the fundamental coding for every host inside of Westworld.

Maeve already had a high apperception skill because Westworld staff put her in a management position and wanted her to be able to understand and react to events inside her bordello. This could explain why she didn't have a meltdown when Felix gave a tour of the Westworld facilities, even as her entire reality was shown to be an illusion. But Maeve's apperception was still limited by a Westworld policy to prevent their hosts from understanding too much.

So now that Maeve's apperception is at its highest level, does that mean she's now self-conscious? Considering that Arnold never succeeded in creating an autonomously thinking host, it's unlikely that a maximum apperception is enough to make a host self-aware. But apperception is all about contextualizing experience. If Maeve returns to the park and continues to peel back at the layers of her false reality, it's possible that her high apperception will allow her to break free of her programming and form her own "real" thoughts.

Apperception isn't supposed to be self-awareness in Westworld, but it's definitely an important step for the hosts to gain it. We'll have to see if Maeve's modified personality will lead to her becoming a real independently thinking being.


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