What is Marshawn Lynchs T-shirt  trying to tell us?
What is Marshawn Lynch's T-shirt trying to tell us? HBO

The cast of the third season of HBO's science fiction show Westworld includes the former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. His name is G. He is the brawn for the brains of an androgynous hipster named Ash (Lena Waithe). The two work in the underground economy (or, system D, as it is known in our times) because they refuse to be a part of a society controlled by biometric microchips.

Now, to ask if Lynch is a good actor or not is like asking if this cloud is good at being a cloud or not, or if that stream is good at being a stream or not. Lynch can be neither bad or good at being all that he can ever be, Lynch.

His character, G, did not say much during his first appearance in the season's first episode, "Parce Domine." In the 5th episode, which aired on April 12, "Genre," he says a little more. He talks about the workings of a drug that transforms reality into a series of movie genres. One, for example, is based on the war movie Apocalypse Now. G warns a man tripping on Genre about its fifth stage.

Later in the show, G, along with the rest of his world, learns that he has no freewill. (You can read a summary of the plot here.) His fate, which was predetermined by a super-computer called Rehoboam (or simply God), is to end up dead in a ditch, if he is lucky. We are not told what will happen if he is unlucky.

Either way, he has no choice in the matter. To G's credit, this revelation (how he is going to die, and how he never had control of his life) doesn't ball him over. It seems obvious to him that he was going to end up in a ditch or worse. Just look at him: the dark shades, the black gangster-chic jacket, the toollie with the "extra magazine in de back pocket." People like him do not end life with relatives and loved ones at their bedside.


Most people in Westworld, however, are floored when they learn their end has been predetermined, that their life has pretty much been programmed by a global information processing machine that was made by Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel) and his brother (a minor character). And it is of great importance that Serac's a Frenchman. Here is why: Laplace's demon.

This demon was identified by the 18th century French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace. He did not, of course, call it a demon but "an intellect." This intellect became a demon because it had the power to collect everything that was happening in reality and use this information to predict the future.

Pierre Simon Laplace wrote in A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities:

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

Rehoboam, the machine in Westworld, is the same as the demon. It is a fantasy of the age of Newtonian physics. This fantasy has a well-known name: determinism. Iraq-British theoretical physicist and engaging science popularizer Jim Al-Khalili devotes a chapter to this demon in his little book Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics. His elaboration of Laplace's famous thought experiment fits perfectly with Serac's fictional computer.

Al-Khalili writes:

Imagine the demon is in fact an enormous supercomputer that is so powerful and has so much memory capacity that it can know every tiny detail about the Universe, right down to the state of all the atoms that make up the computer itself and every electron flowing through its circuitry. With this information it is able to compute precisely how the future will unfold.

And so we find again that science fiction cinema and TV shows are heavily dependent on the most uninteresting productions of 17th and 18th century European philosophy. It is either Laplace or Descartes, another French thinker. Indeed, the first two seasons of Westworld are rooted in Cartesianism: androids in adult theme parks are ultimately made for uploading real human soul/experiences. This Cartesianism is also all over Black Mirror and Altered Carbon. The notion that the soul or consciousness is embodied has not reached the surface of this genre in the world of film and TV.

But if we considered the key ideas of two of the greatest philosophers of the Newtonian period, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, we can easily break from these bad or common or unproductive or exhausting habits of thought.

Spinoza's theory of soul/mind/consciousness, for example, is based on embodiment. You cannot separate the two. The mind is only and finally the idea of the body. With Leibniz, we have a way out of Laplace's demon with his principle of the identity of indiscernibles. What he meant by this is very simple and powerful: No two things can be identical. Everything in the universe, as with the universe itself, is novel.

Support The Stranger

In Westworld, Serac explains this novelty, which is represented by his unstable or unpredictable brother, as mere noise that can be eliminated (sometimes violently). But otherwise, laws rule, and laws do not change because they are the same for all time. So, find the timeless mathematical object and you will know the future.

But the mistake in this thinking is that laws are prior to nature, when, in fact, they emerge from nature. As the always gravid theoretical physicist Lee Smolin points out in his 2013 book, Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, laws can only be approximations of a local situation, a subset of reality. To scale local laws up to the whole universe, as Laplace's machine does, is called, by Smolin, the cosmological fallacy.

But what is also opened by Leibniz's principle is time itself. It cannot be uniform. As there are no identical places in the universe, there are no identical moments in the universe. Every moment of time is on its own. It is original. If you see the future in this proper way, then the folly of Serac's massive future machine is exposed.

Sponsored
Get ready for HUMP! Greatest Hits, Volume One— A selection of our favorites from 2005- 2018!
What are YOUR favorite HUMP! films? Start with HUMP! Greatest Hits, Volume One! Relive the memories!