For those who have (for some unfathomable reason) not yet watched the HBO series or the 1973 original, Westworld is a robotic amusement park, populated by incredibly lifelike machines (hosts) where park visitors (guests) can go and indulge their thirst for adventure, or alternatively satisfy their darkest desires.

Imagine for a second that such a place actually existed. At any given point, there would be many human guests and thousands of hosts in the park. In this Westworld-like place, human guests would be murdering robotic hosts on a regular basis, as would some of the hosts. The hosts are simply repaired, memory wiped, and placed back in the park. So far so good.

The machines are prevented from killing or maiming the guests by programming directives, which I'm willing to accept, since machines could have built-in ways to identify each other. But given that guests and hosts are outwardly at least physically indistinguishable, how on earth can I get my guests to know not to kill each other? It can be argued that bullets in such an amusement park are made such that they cannot hurt humans, but there are explosives, knives, ropes, water, rocks, sharp sticks, tall buildings etc.

How can a no-holds-barred amusement park prevent its human visitors from killing each other?

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    $\begingroup$ Please note that I'm not asking about how this is explained in the actual show, but rather about the optimal way to do it in a similar amusement park. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 16 '16 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ You can't prevent accidents because they're 'accidental' $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Nov 16 '16 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent question on an excellent series, +1 $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 16 '16 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know maybe attach one robot companion to each human patron... I mean literally and let the human WEAR the robot the rest I'll leave to ur imagination. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 16 '16 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ Why can't you simply mark the robots somehow (red shirts or something)? $\endgroup$ – user8808 Nov 16 '16 at 11:15

The explosives are simulated (remember there was manual human approval for the two small cigar explosions in the prison break episode?), so they are not lethal.

Ropes, sticks, and just regular sucker punches and glassings in pub brawls are more likely issues. Especially if the alcohol is real.

It is exactly the same problem faced by any theme park now - how do you prevent crimes on your premises? If someone is determined, it would be very difficult.

You could posit a bio-monitor on each human guest, so that their vital signs can be monitored. After all, it's a kinda dangerous environment, and many guests may get hurt accidentally (falling off a horse, drunken stumble down the stairs, etc). Staff would want to be alerted ASAP if anything happened to a guest.

You could also say that medical technology has advanced to the point where there could be a swarm of medical nanobots saturating the park, healing any guest who is sick or injured.

It is not entirely clear that Westworld is enacted in physical space, either. The entire thing might be a VR simulation.

  • $\begingroup$ You pretty much summarized what I was gonna say but if you want more info look up "simmunition"; one theory suggests that the ammo is like paintballs and the hosts just react differently to it $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 16 '16 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, although the medical nanobot thing does sound a bit like techno-magic $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 16 '16 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Depends when your park is existing. Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near) asserts that medical nanobots are less than a decade from first use, and mass deployment of nanobots will be possible within 2-3 decades. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Nov 17 '16 at 4:15

In the show, we do see that humans can get hurt to some extent, but not killed; that would suggest that it's not some form of VR situation. So, given this evidence I'll go ahead and assume that it's entirely physical and give a possible physical world option. It's not quite modern day, but we're not that far off.

So, it certainly can't be a gun-end solution on the basis that people move; for example, a human diving in front of a host after a shot was fired. This implies that the guns themselves could be completely real and it must be a bullet thing.

How could a bullet damage something but bounce off something else?

They could be made from programmable matter. Essentially, objects made from nano-robotics. This is an active area of research and has already had some very interesting results.

The same also works for knives, ropes and virtually anything in the world. I.e. when the programmable matter detects that it may injure a human, it simply disintegrates. This would cause a little bit of harm, as they do in some scenes in the show, but is overall non-fatal for humans.

Bonus round: There's also a lot of active research into 3D printable programmable matter. As seen in the opening title sequence, 3D printing is quite clearly a cornerstone of Westworld too.

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    $\begingroup$ Neal Stephenson's Seveneves discusses "ambots" -- ammunition made of nanobots. $\endgroup$ – Michael Blackburn Nov 16 '16 at 19:32

How about regular old fashioned security guards on the premise? Guards who inconspicuously stay around the human guests or even acting as local in-world sheriff and just stop things before they escalate? This is even easier when guns are non-lethal (rubber with electronics inside that robot victim are programmed to react to) to humans.

Or perhaps the humans can be provided with some device that tells them that the person they're interacting with is another guest. Say, a clip that vibrates when they're near another person or optional spectacles/contacts that highlight the robots with the press of a button etc.

PS: I am still to watch the series and this answer is entirely based on what's mentioned in the question, so it's possible that I'm missing something obvious.


Seems pretty simple, you have all of the hosts programmed to intervene whenever two humans start to fight. This can be "in character" at first, then escalate to more and more "out of character" intervention (supposed enemy [to each other] hosts working together to restrain a violent human, for example). Presumably a human visitor would break character if threatened with violence, which would signal to the other human guest that their target was "off limits". There may even be a safe word all human guests are instructed to use if they feel they are in danger. If the guest persists in attacking another human, well, that is no different than someone going to Disney World and shanking a guest.

I imagine that if someone wanted to recreate a serial killer fantasy where they would be attacking random folks with little or no warning they could arrange this with the park operators and be given some type of signaling (valid targets wear something specific or act a certain way) or they are isolated in an area with ONLY robot hosts. Pricey, but possible.

I don't see how Westworld could 100% ensure the absolute safety of a guest, just like no amusement park, museum, or restaurant can do the same. A slim possibility of injury at the hands of another guest probably adds a lot of spice to the experience!


As @BryanMcClure notes, in the original movie we were told that the guns would not fire when pointed at someone who was emitting human body heat. Assuming the electronics of this were sophisticated enough, that would prevent the guns from killing someone who happened to be standing behind your intended target and you miss -- the computers would figure out that, if fired at that moment, the gun would hit a person, and refuse to fire.

I haven't seen the TV show (I didn't know there was one until now), and it's been years since I saw the movie. But I always thought it was kind of dumb to have real guns at all. Even aside from the potential danger to the guests, why would you want your guests to constantly be shooting up your valuable robots? I think it would make a lot more sense to have guns that fired blanks and then just have Hollywood-style special effects to make the robots look like they bleed and objects you "hit" fall apart convincingly.

Likewise I wouldn't have real knives or any other weapons, just make it all special effects. If you're going to let the barroom brawlers hit somebody over the head with a chair, you better be providing those special break-apart chairs they use in fight scenes in movies. Every possible weapon is Styrofoam instead of wood or rock, spun sugar instead of glass, etc.

Of course if they'd used that elementary common sense for the park in the movie, then when the robots ran amok they wouldn't have been able to shoot anybody. Really another case of a movie where people do incredibly stupid things because if they didn't there wouldn't have been a movie. The robots run amok, shoot at people with blanks, the people laugh, call the people who run the park, the park technicians fix the robots and they give everyone a refund for the day at the park being ruined. The end.

Anyway, even at that this would be a super-dangerous park. People could punch each other, hit each other with blunt objects, etc. I doubt it would be legal to create such a park in the United States today.


In the original movie the guns won't fire on any one with a heat signature. In addition the guest maybe required to were a band around there army or something similar so the can be easily identified. Your gun could be similar. In addition have the heart rate and location of ever guest monitored, and cameras everywhere, and police standing by to arrest any one who would try to hurt another guest.

  • $\begingroup$ The question is not so much about guests purposely killing each other, it's about assuming a guest is just another host and doing bad things to them thinking it's just another stinking robot $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 16 '16 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa again read the first part of my question $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Nov 16 '16 at 16:45

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