"This story line will make Hieronymus Bosch look like he was doodling kittens," Lee Sizemore brags. He's the head of the "narrative department" at Westworld, a frontier-themed vacation park where customers act out their darkest fantasies. A special little something I call the ourobouros." Self-cannibalism and the snake that eats its own tail: that's a fair description of "Westworld," a come-hither drama that introduces itself as a science-fiction thriller about cyborgs who become self-aware, then reveals its true identity as what happens when an HBO drama struggles to do the same. Created by the husband-and-wife team of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, "Westworld" is explicitly, and often wittily, an exploitation series about exploitation, full of naked bodies that are meant to make us think about nudity and violence that comments on violence.
"Don't be evil," Google's two founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, famously proclaimed in the manifesto they published just before their company went public, in 2004. Avoiding evil suggested a pretty low bar, but the vow itself--along with the founders' boast that "our business practices are beyond reproach"--was an invitation to find contrary examples. There have been plenty of nominations, including the announcement, in 2012, that Google would track its customers' Gmail missives, Web searches, and YouTube usage, which had the effect of helping advertisers target potential customers. Google still scans e-mail and tracks Web searches. This is, in fact, its business model--your Gmail account and search cost no money; you pay for it by letting people advertise to you based on keywords used in searches and e-mails.