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Just how far are we from having Westworld-style robots?

Photo: HBO

There are a lot of very valid questions to have about Westworld—including 1) Is Ed Harris bad?, 2) What the fuck?, and 3) Which one is a Cylon?—but the HBO series also raises a host of more logistical queries. When is it set? What is going on in the rest of its world? Where does the money to terraform an enormous multi-city virtual world come from, anyway? How do they make their killable, sexualized, semi-sentient robots, and more importantly, how long until we can have some of our own?

A new article on Vice explores this question with, to be frank, dispiriting results. We can presently grow skin fairly easily, and cowboy sex-bots wouldn’t necessarily need every internal organ that a human does. Still, Vice’s expert estimates we’re about 100 years away from putting all of the pieces together.


It gets worse. Let’s say we’ve constructed a humanoid automaton with the convincingly weathered skin and steel-blue gaze we prefer in our shooting targets. Getting him (it?) to talk, think, and act like a person would take even longer than its construction. Most of what we think of as AI actually exists within a possibility space, with its various shortcomings papered over through misdirection. Creating an AI that could convincingly pick up on the myriad social cues present in a vast, interworking world, says Vice, is “out of reach for the foreseeable future.”

In other words, holster those six-shooters; there are no robots to plug them with just yet. In the meantime, you can listen to more of those player-piano ditties, if that’s your thing, or brew up a couple more fan theories, which HBO’s programming president apparently reads in his spare time. The entire article on Vice is well worth reading, as it gets into these feasibility issues as well as some of the show’s thornier ethical ones.

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