In season two of HBO's Westworld, the devil's in the data collection.
Early episodes offer up no shortage of the robot revenge fantasy promised in last year's finale, as humans have to reckon with both the technological evolution of artificially intelligent androids and the moral culpability they bear for their behavior toward these entities. But a new parable about humans and technology is also emerging—one that dovetails ominously with current information-era concerns.
We first get a hint of this when Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) discovers a drone robot in an underground lab logging what appears to be "records of guests' experiences and their DNA." It's soon revealed that key to the investors' scheme was a promise that the theme park's robots could serve as more than just playthings for guests with Old West fantasies. In the Westworld theme park, folks feel they can do whatever they want without judgment or consequence. But all the while, Delos, the corporation behind it, is watching.
It's hard not to draw parallels to current controversies involving data collection and privacy. While the central threat in season one of Westworld was still somewhat removed from reality—android technology and artificial intelligence are less advanced than many people realize—this season's menace lurks closer to home.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Westworld".