Aside from a few minor quibbles about pacing, I really enjoyed the second season of Westworld, the HBO television drama set in a futuristic amusement park staffed by android “hosts” serving the needs of their human guests. The eighth episode, “Kiksuya”, was one of the best parts so far, featuring an emotionally satisfying star-turn from the Native American actor Zahn McClarnon. Given the corporate interest in robotics and artificial intelligence, the core premise of the show, the development of humanoid robots for tourism and entertainment, for entirely reputable or entirely disreputable purposes, seems all too plausible. Though the creation of truly human-like machines, similar to those portrayed in the TV series, will remain something of a pipe dream for many decades – or centuries – to come.
Tangentially related to the above, until recently I was completely unaware that the fantasy hobby of live action role-playing – better known by the acronym, LARP – was being used to sell a sort of tame Westworld-style holiday to larping fans of the execrable British TV series, Downtown Abbey. Back in May, the YouTuber Lindybeige attended a three-day historical LARP event at the beautiful Moszna Castle in south-western Poland where he and other participants adopted the fictional identities of men and women attending a supposed house party in Britain during March 1917.
What struck me about the carefully organised gathering was the list of options given to the attendees, allowing individuals to purchase the roles of upper-class guests or working-class servants in the imaginary stately home, Fairweather Manor. Which raises the obvious question. Who on earth would pay to be a housemaid or a butler in a staged version of Edwardian Britain, even if that position was considerably cheaper to buy? As intriguing as I find the idea in general, and it’s certainly several steps up from the traditional larping activity of hitting each other with foam swords(!), I also find it kind of odd. Personally speaking, I’d find it very uncomfortable to be around people pretending to wait on me. Or worse, actually serving me.