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.