Walter, the bio-mechanical humanoid played by Michael Fassbender in Alien: Covenant, was created to help humans. As recently released deleted scenes show, Walter’s helping hand extends to growing weed. But while it’s obvious he doles out the bud to help stressed-out humans take the edge off, it’s not clear what he does with his crop when the humans aren’t around.
We have to ask: Does Walter get high?
In one particularly dank deleted scene, Walter offers Katherine Waterston’s Daniels a box of three crisp joints. The botany area on the spaceship Covenant, he informs her, is “ideal for cannabis growth.” Daniels, who just watched her husband James Franco suffer a brutal death, and looks pretty down to get stoned, thanks Walter for “thinking of everything.” Walter is clearly aware, at least in an intellectual sense, of what marijuana can do for her, but whether he has the capacity or the will to have experienced it himself is up for debate.
Most A.I. researchers would say that Walter is probably not a stoner because he can’t be. For biological reasons, and, importantly, the purposeful design of artificially intelligent machines, he is likely not even capable of getting high.
In a conversation with Hopes&Fears, Dr. Selmer Bringsjord, Chair of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer A.I. and Reasoning Laboratory, explained that machine intelligence is built around the concepts of logic and moral-based reasoning. This, he says, would keep A.I. from trying to get lit: “If we’re focusing on how [A.I.] agents can reason and make rational decisions — or at least defensible decisions — about what they do, then taking drugs for an A.I. agent would have to be a rational decision,” he said.
For Walter, it’d be irrational to take drugs because he doesn’t have the sort of physiology that would allow him to get high. Walter is considered a Synthetic — a bio-mechanical humanoid that is designed to look and act like a human. He has a carbon fiber skeleton, artificial, electrically stimulated muscles made of silicon, and a “brain” complete with RAM memory data. He’s capable of physical activities like eating and drinking, but he can’t actually gain nutrients from what he consumes — it’s all a ruse to facilitate closer social interactions with humans.
To actually get high, Walter’s physiology would have to be vastly more biological. When a human smokes, the psychotropic cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol passes from the lungs into the blood stream, where it encounters the cannabinoid receptors. The THC mimics a natural chemical called anandamide, which normally triggers a burst of dopamine when it binds cannabinoid receptors, stimulating neuronal activity that makes a person feel high.
As far as we know, Walter doesn’t have cannabinoid receptors, so he probably can’t get high. It’s possible that he’s been programmed to act high when he senses weed, making him more relatable to humans, but that wouldn’t constitute a rational reason for him to get high when he’s alone.
What does seem like a rational decision for Walter, however, is to give Daniels a bit of weed so she can get high. He knows how it affects humans, and he’s ready to serve. It’s by far the chillest part of Alien: Covenant, despite the fact that it didn’t make it in the final cut.