Westworld and the Bicameral Mind Theory: Season 1, Episode 6 – “The Adversary”

*Contains spoilers*

In Episode 6, the links to Julian Jaynes’s bicameral mind theory that have already been established continue.

Through her interaction with Felix the technician, Maeve continues on her path to discovering the nature of her reality and gaining consciousness.

Elsie makes reference to the “bicameral system,” telling Bernard: “That bicameral system you told me about … I think that’s what they used to hack the woodcutter. The voices the hosts have been hearing? I think someone’s been broadcasting to them. …. There’s still relays out there in the park, and it looks like someone turned one on.”

Elsie is getting closer to uncovering the nature of Arnold’s bicameral command hallucinations to the hosts:

“Theresa was using the old bicameral control system to reprogram the woodcutter. But she’s not the only one.  Someone else has been using the system for weeks to re-task hosts … these modifications are serious … ”

Next, we see Ford questioning the younger host version of himself. The boy reveals he heard a bicameral voice of Arnold telling him to kill his dog.

As a side note, many more people today experience hearing voices than is generally known, and many of those that do hear voices hear what’s called “command hallucinations” that direct their behavior — a vestige of our earlier bicameral mentality.

Finally, it appears that “someone” has already been altering Maeve’s code. Will increased overall intelligence lead to Maeve’s gaining consciousness? To what degree are intelligence and consciousness related?

My own view is that intelligence is necessary but insufficient. Intelligence is largely (but not entirely) genetic, whereas consciousness (as Jaynes defines it) in learned through language. To use the computer metaphor, our intelligence is predicated on our hardware whereas consciousness is like our operating system. And some of us appear to be running both the bicameral and conscious operating systems to some degree in parallel.

Westworld and the Bicameral Mind Theory: Season 1, Episode 5 – “Contrapasso”

*Contains spoilers*

Episode 5 opens with Dr. Ford telling a story from his childhood to the retired host he is often seen speaking with. As a child his father bought him and his brother a retired greyhound. The greyhound spent its entire life chasing something but when it finally caught it, it didn’t know what to do. Is Ford’s story a metaphor for consciousness in the hosts?

In the next scene we see Dolores in a graveyard with William and Logan. She experiences a bicameral hallucination that commands “find me,” accompanied by a vision, and responds “show me how.” Who is issuing the verbal commands? Is “Arnold” prompting her?

Later we see Dolores, talking to William, beginning to question her reality. Next she has a vision of herself in the parade, where she receives the “deep and dreamless slumber” hypnotic suggestion and wakes up being interviewed by Dr. Ford.

Ford asks if she has been “hearing voices” — if Arnold has been “speaking” to her. Interestingly she lies, saying no — something she should not be capable of. Ford seems to be concerned that Arnold is interfering with the hosts, and for the first time we learn of Arnold’s original intention “to destroy this place.”

Dolores now seems to be in almost constant communication with Arnold. In the ancient world, the bicameral mind was a pre-conscious mentality in which the brain’s hemispheres operated more independently than they do today. The right hemisphere used language in the form of auditory hallucinations to transmit information across the corpus callosum to the left hemisphere. In Westworld, Arnold seems to be using bicameral hallucinations (the “bicameral system” as they refer to it in the show) as a means to communicate with and control the hosts.

But to what end?






Westworld and the Bicameral Mind Theory: Season 1, Episode 4 – “Dissonance Theory”

*Contains spoilers*

The most Jaynesian-related scene in this episode is the opening scene with Bernard again talking with Dolores.

Dolores hints at changes that are taking place in her thinking, saying “I feel spaces opening up inside of of me, like a building with room I’ve never explored.” When viewed from the perspective of Julian Jaynes’s theory, her description is exactly what we would expect to see from someone learning consciousness, where metaphors of the physical world build up to create our inner “mind-space.”

She next makes a statement very reminiscent of “The Fall” from the Book of Genesis, saying, “I think there may be something wrong with this world.” Prior to this, Dolores seemed incapable of entertaining these types of thoughts – her script didn’t allow it.

The Garden of Eden story can be read as a parable for the breakdown of the bicameral mind and the birth of consciousness: first they were non-conscious, then they ate from the “Tree of Knowledge,” gained consciousness, and for the first time had the concept of morality and good and evil.

She fears something may be wrong with her, that she may be “losing her mind.” Bernard responds by telling her about a game called “The Maze,” and that if she can find the center of the Maze, perhaps she can be “free.”

Apparently the center of the Maze (which the Man in Black is looking for) somehow represents the emergence of consciousness.

Next we see Maeve at the Mariposa suddenly having more flashbacks and memories, recalling the workers back at the facility and a bullet being left inside her.

Maeve then sketches the technicians that she’s seen in her memories. When she goes to hide her sketch beneath a loose floorboard, she discovers similar sketches that she’s drawn in the past but doesn’t remember. The pieces are starting to come together for Maeve that things are not as they seem, and memory is playing a critical role in slowly expanding her consciousness.

Later Dolores has a bicameral hallucinatory experience, hearing the command “remember,” and seeing the white church and the maze traced in the dirt, along with memories of past events.

In the stage coach on the way to the prison, the Man in Black has a conversation with Lawrence, telling him “no choice you ever made was your own. You have always been a prisoner. What if I told you that I’m here to set you free?”

Is the Man in Black’s quest to find the Maze really an attempt to bring consciousness to all of the hosts?

Also noteworthy: the Native Americans drop a figurine that resembles the technicians, and we are told that “it’s part of their religion” (called a “shade”). And in a lunch with Theresa, Ford refers to himself and Arnold as “gods.”