TV

Thoughts on Channel 4’s ‘Humans’

The fear of being unable to understand these synthetics can be resolved by adding meaning to both humanity and robotic appliances – we need to understand our own human nature as well as how synths work. How this can happen is through the robots themselves, since their ‘void’ allows us to understand our own characteristics and humanity. As for understanding the robots themselves, that can only come by making them as human as possible. In our society, we can only comprehend things to do with human behaviour, environments (including animals) and culture. Therefore, it is only when robots become human that we can fully understand them. In Humans, we learn about this when Laura’s hatred towards Anita dissipates when she becomes Mia, a machine with consciousness.

With regards to the age-old fear of robots taking our job, I would agree that this is currently a concern in certain industries (for example, in engineering as mentioned here). But with Humans exploring the issue in more detail, there’s now more to be discussed.

In fact, the main cause of this redundancy is us. All robots and AI today have a purpose which we assign ourselves. With the types of synthetics shown in Humans, each person in the Hawkins house, for example, gives certain tasks and roles to Anita. This further adds to the idea that these synths are ‘voids’. By giving these robots tasks that would be otherwise completed by ourselves, we are taking roles and responsibilities away from our lives which, in a way, makes us less human. We choose what we want the purpose of robots to be – we fill the ‘void’ with certain tasks we do not wish to do ourselves – but in doing so, we make aspects of our family or working life redundant. For that reason, it is not the robots causing redundancies in family life or the workspace, it’s us.

The final fear of robotics is the fear of an uprising, which is the main fear We Are People addresses in Humans. However, this fear contradicts the fear of being unable to understand robots and artificial intelligence. As mentioned previously, in order to truly comprehend synthetics, they need to become more human. But yet, if we decide to make them more human, then the dichotomy between synths and humans breaks down and it all becomes a bit more complicated. If we make robots more human to understand them, then the dichotomy where humans rule over synths changes. Eventually, we’d end up with a society where there are two forms of the ‘human’ race (‘pure humans’ and synths with consciousness), which will inevitably a fight for power. If there is anything for humanity to fear, it’s the time when robots or synths lose their servant status and the dichotomy dissolves. If all synths become conscious in series two of Humans, then the breakdown of the dichotomy and the exploration of the power struggle would make for an interesting plot.

Similar to this, Humans also references the rights of synths in society. In one episode, Mattie calls out two boys who wanted to have sex with a ‘powered-down’ synth, whilst in the final episode, Hobb explains that since Leo is a synth, his rights are “a bit of a grey area”. Throughout the series, we learn about what it means to be truly human. But if that wasn’t thought-provoking enough, the whole criteria of human rights and the rights of the synth are questioned.

17 comments

  1. this is a great insight into the programme. i was unsure about it at first, it seemed too focussed on the family/synth relationship but i loved the uncovering of the david elster narrative. the most interesting thing i found about the show was the varying reactions from people, particularly those who are scared of something that ultimately, we have created. definitely looking forward to another series!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit I feared that it would be the same – too focussed on the family! But like you say I loved the Elster narrative (if anything though, it would have been great for him to have still been alive – that could have been *really* interesting)!

      Absolutely! There’s a mixture between curiosity and fear towards the synths and I think that’s what makes it a great series! I can’t wait for series two either!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  2. Fantastic recap of Humans – what can I say, I loved the series. I came to know about it 1 am early hours one Saturday, it was portrayed as an advert, advertising people to order their synths now. Myself and my group of friends were shocked, our mouths dropped open and then we got into a heated debate about how human rights and robotic right were set to blur. Meanwhile, I was checking how I could order one and then realised it was actually a TV series…

    I’ve been following robotics for some time and it’s quite remarkable how Japan and other countries have began the production and investment of robots in the work place. There’s a well known robot who’s a stand in actress over in Japan too and although you can tell (for now) she or it, is a robot, it brings home how quick technology is advancing. Of course in my opinion, this has been happening for years yet the general public are last to know …

    What do I think about AI? Well let’s face it, we’re run by AI already – everything from cash machines to automated phone messaging. We’re just not frighted of it because it doesn’t look human and it has a human behind it. I guess the only thing that separates us and AI is consciousness, which some humans don’t even have, so perhaps we’ve robots among us already… Programming consciousness however, some would say because it’s programmed, it’s not consciousness according to free will therefore it’s not the same as human consciousness. It could be argued however especially if you believe in a higher power, that it was it who programmed us to have consciousness. Even if you don’t believe in a higher power, it’s no shocker that out brain and body responds to nature and in a way, nature programs us. How are body and brain function is down to out DNA, chemical and neurological coding… So actually we’re not that different to A.I really.

    I do think it would pose a huge amount of issues if A.I lived among us as humans – if they can feel, think, make decisions, care, love and everything else then would it be human of us to hurt them – love them etc. Human rights would have a field day – we find it hard to accept other colours and religions never mind another race made out of Science.

    But then again, evolution is why we’re here so maybe this is the next step for us only time will tell.

    I am really looking forward to see where the writers takes this though!

    Thanks Liam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for such an interesting comment!

      Intriguing what you said about us already having AI what with cash machines etc… Perhaps we’re alright with technological advancements at this stage because there’s a mutual dependence on the technology (i.e. human needs technology for purpose, technology needs human to function). I think that’s where this fear of an uprising comes from (our authority, or this ‘mutual dependence’ is redundant when they have consciousness).

      So many interesting discussions to be had! Interesting what you said about the robot in Japan – I really must have a look into all this. Thank you!

      Like

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