Disclaimer: I am very much a layman in these areas of research, so please do amend the question in order to conform to conventional usage of terminology and definitions thereof.
In the series Westworld (not the film from 1973), there are a number of themes related to consciousness, sentience and self-awareness. However, it seems that the main in-universe theory of what drives consciousness† is:
- Firstly, a version of bicameralism, namely that the (sentient) mind is, was, or — in the case of Westworld — can be defined as being composed of an active part "generating" thought and a passive part which "accepts/consumes/processes" this thought.
- Secondly — and, according to my limited knowledge of psychology/cognitive science, perhaps more accurately — that memory and (past) experience is a fundamental part of the development of consciousness/sentience/self-awareness.
Now, I know that ideas in psychology and the philosophy of mind are extremely difficult to prove even empirically, let alone formally. However, it is still possible to not only do experiments which provide corroborating evidence proving the above but also to intrinsically evaluate the above hypothesis for general consistency. Therefore, regardless of how accurately these ideas describe how human minds actually work, how plausible is it to define some form of consciousness according to the above? (yes, I know that one point of the entire series is to drive home the idea that there is no magical "switch" to "turning on" consciousness/sentience; It's not a binary distinction).
At least in the human mind, memories in fact involve complex chains of synapses which, allow us to, in some form, indeed "re-live" past experience to some degree. In fact, (please help me find the citation), it has been shown that people thinking about doing physical activity display activity in parts of the brain responsible for planning of the actual motor movement for that activity. Given that the Hosts in the series are able to "perfectly" re-live past experiences, is it possible that "consciousness" could even more plausibly emerge as a complex interaction between these networks, i.e. sensory input triggers multiple memories (which are in fact parts of a larger neural network), which then "output" a response of some kind?
Even in humans, what constitutes a "mind" develops over time (cf. theory of mind) — whether or not this is due to accumulating experiences and memories is beyond my (current) knowledge. Since even we aren't born with some sort of "fully-developed" cognition, is it not plausible that some other being/machine/whatever could develop cognitively from a "lower" point than what children start at to something similar to our own adult "cognition" (ignoring the problem of philosophical zombies)?
However, if cognition can be driven by such a network of "memories", is this not in fact then incompatible with the notion of a "bicameral" mind? Does that not mean that, despite how smart/sound the individual ideas in the show seem in isolation, that Westworldian cognition is intrinsically unsound?
†In this question, I conflate consciousness and sentience for the sake of convenience; Is there not a more proper term which encompasses both?