Westworld’s Bullets Are Bullshit: Weird Worldbuilding Questions

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I’ve been watching Westworld, and the bullets are where it starts, as usual.

Because the Westworld guns have two modes of fire: if they fire at a host, which is to say one of the poor android bastards whose job it is to be raped and murdered by the guests, they fire an actual goddamned bullet.  That bullet smashes through glass, punches through rock, and also through the pinata-bloody guts of the hosts.

But if the gun is fired at a human guest, it instead fires a pellet of some sort.  If you’re the Man In Black, then you’re badass enough that the pellet bounces off of you.  If you’re a wimpy noob, that pellet hits you hard enough to knock you back flat on your ass.  But it doesn’t draw blood.

….presumably.

Though:

But okay. So even assuming they’ve come up with a pellet that can hit someone hard enough to knock them back on their ass without hurting them (and assuming that backwards tumble doesn’t, say, send the back of the guest’s skull crunching against an oak table, thus crippling them Million Dollar Baby-style), and we’ve established that the guns won’t let you shoot a guest in the face, what about the bullets?

It’s shown that the bullets shatter glass.  Pretty sure having someone shoot a bottle three feet away from your face without eye protection is pretty dangerous, son.

Pretty sure bullets ricochet off of metal sometimes.  Not often.  But with all those bullets flying, chaos theory’s gotta come in at some point and whoops, a bullet bounces off something it shouldn’t have and hits a guest in the heart.

This doesn’t seem like it’s a safe park at all.

And wait: how does the gun know when to shoot? It can’t be a bunch of fancy electronics hidden inside the gun, because a) the gun is the most iconic part of the gunslinger, and having a lightweight gun you break open to reveal a bunch of circuitry would be no fun, and b) you can apparently bury these guns for thirty years and nobody notices they’re missing and they can still function perfectly when dug up, which seems unlikely.

So maybe the gun’s “guest or host” mechanism is in the bullet.  Also unlikely.  A bullet is pretty efficient; it needs most of its space for powder and tip.  You can, I guess, replace some of the mass of the less-efficient bullets of yesteryear with circuitry – but then you’d have the monstrous challenge of trying to determine what’s a guest and what’s a host by watching through the bottom of the gun’s barrel.  It’d be like watching the action through a rapidly-swinging telescope – even with computer speeds, you wouldn’t have enough information to guarantee that the barrel wouldn’t have shifted between the time the hammer started falling and the fire.  I mean, what if there’s a guest hidden behind that bar and you fire a bullet by mistake?

Or maybe the Westworld network is wired into the bullet, with external sensors studded into every wall continually tracking the trajectory of each gun, and only allowing fire when their live-updated three-D models of the place show that it wouldn’t hit a guest, or travel through anything that would hit a guest, or ricochet off of anything that would hit a guest.

Which worked for the first few episodes, where we were mostly inside, but as we go on we see that Westworld is enormous.  There’s empty spaces that rival entire deserts.  They either have satellite-level scans that are accurate down to the micrometer, or they have studded every rock in the desert with unflagging sensors.

But that’s assuming guests use knives!  Remember, the whole point of this show is that you can’t tell guests from hosts – the androids are perfect human-level accurate.

What happens if a guest just flat out decides to stab another guest?

Oh, sure, we’ve seen a mild safeguard in a host snatching a knife away – but that involved everyone seated conveniently around a table.  There are times when the guests are alone in the desert, or yards apart from each other.  When you pick up a knife, does a safety host just start trailing you silently, standing two feet away like the thing in It Follows?

What happens if the guest stabs the safety host, then stabs another guest?  Do the dead rise up to protect the living?

How easy would it be to commit accidental murder here because you didn’t know that the guy you just smashed a chair over was a living, breathing human and you just accidentally caved in his skull?

How easy would it be to bring someone you hated here with the idea that maybe you wanted to murder them by accident, knowing Delos corporation would cover it up?

Speaking of which, we’ve taken to shouting “Pour one out for the construction crew!” every time there’s a shootout.  I mean, how many repairmen does it take to restore this world?  With literally daily shootouts, do they jail the guests in at night so they don’t hear the sound of electric drills and pneumatic nailguns fixing up the place?  Do they have an entire window factory in there somewhere, dedicated to doing nothing but replacing the glass?

Speaking of quality control, people fuck these robots, which leads to the absurd realization that somewhere in Delos there’s a Vaginal Secretions and Semen tasting lab, where very slutty people sip the latest Western Whore Formula and decide whether the oral sex is appropriately flavored.  Imagine a young Anthony Hopkins and Arnold having a studious debate about that.

And, like, the women need to dispense lube.  They have some kind of organs, sure, but eventually they must run out. They’re fucking all the time.  Are the host technicians also bringing in a vat of K-Y Jelly and just topping them off like the guys at the Jiffy Lube?

It’s been established the hosts can get MRSA, which is why the technicians wear those swanky Outbreak outfits.  But… how do STIs work?  It’s also established that the guests have orgies with each other sometimes.  Do they ask the guests to wear condoms?  Or do the hosts have some sort of internal Purell that just miraculously wipes away HSV?

What happens if two guests fuck unprotected and pick up something from each other?  How’s that…

Okay, the point is that I like Westworld.  A lot.  I’m reading up on all the theories, and digging the characters, and I love the scientific trappings.

But every science-fiction story has a couple of threads where, if you tug, you’ll find that really you can’t answer them well.  And it’s fun to try if you’re a fanfic author (or a professional author who decides to write his own rebuttal), but really, a lot of what science fiction runs on is thin ice where you’re better off skating past as the narrative asks, rather than crouching down to look closely at the cracks.

Westworld’s cracks, unfortunately, are right at the top in those damn guns.  And I can’t. Stop. Asking. Questions.

Nothing wrong with it.  At some point you just go, “It’s magic!” and sliiiiiiide past.

(EDIT: My pal Bart points out that in Episode 2, they mention that the future is free of disease. Which doesn’t quite explain how MRSA is germinating inside of these robots if everything’s sterile, but maybe they give everyone an STI shot before entering.)

1 Comment

  1. Dawn
    Oct 31, 2016

    In the original 1973 movie, the whole premise is that, despite the attempts at making everything perfect, pretty much every aspect was buggy as hell and the “safety” was implied and assumed rather than tested and proven.

    Also, I think that there are fewer (obvious) safeguards in the less-trafficked regions such as Pariah as compared to the central hub of Sweetwater, as evidenced in last night’s episode. The bullets are problematic, yeah, but I kinda figured they were electronic bullets designed specifically with briefly-alluded-to nanotechnology that only manages to injure the hosts and never the guests, even in cases of ricochet.

    Guest-on-guest violence? Well, that’d probably be a murder charge, no matter what, but it appears that the hosts are programmed to protect the guests in that sort of instance as much as they can – although obviously some might be more important than others.

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