Thoughts on Channel 4’s ‘Humans’

At a time when our society is constantly expanding and changing, questions are being asked about the speed of our technological advances. In the latest Channel 4 drama Humans, which concluded last Sunday, the exploration of the ultimate technological breakthrough – artificial intelligence – is investigated in a way which addresses the advantages and disadvantages of introducing robotic appliances into our everyday lives.

For the first half of the series, through the troubled Hawkins family, we see different attitudes to Anita’s role in their family life. Sophie has a ‘human’ relationship with Anita, Joe sees the synthetics as nothing more than obedient robots (at least, at first) and Laura struggles to understand Anita, fearing that some of her familial roles have been made redundant thanks to the robot.

Then, throughout the series, the relationship between Joe and Laura crumbles as they realise that they both have different views on synthetic appliances. But in fact, synths are nothing more than obedient ‘voids’ which we all assign different meanings to. Whilst George has a friendly relationship with Odi, Pete’s suspicious of his wife’s robotic physiotherapist, Simon. Even in numerous interviews before the show’s launch, the actors explained that it is up to the viewers to determine how much of a threat artificial intelligence and robots are to humanity, and which ‘side’ people take.

But as well as the human characters assigning different opinions to the synths, they all react differently to the task of understanding how the synthetics work. For example, people like Mattie only understood the robots as lines of computer code at first, whilst Laura was desperate to find out more about Anita’s thought processes. As for the characters who initially fear the synths, one of the possible reasons for this is the fact that the robots allow the humans to understand themselves more. With the introduction of a ‘species’ which are outside the human race and treated as servants, they try to understand the complexity of human nature. At one point, Karen/Beatrice even explains that to give consciousness to other synthetics would lead to ‘suffering’. Although, whilst the synths learn more about humans, this often leads to a ‘mirror’ effect, as the humans begin to learn more about themselves. For some characters, the idea of robots defining something as extraordinary, complex and mysterious as human nature itself is terrifying. Whilst some of us would love to explore humanity, others would rather live their lives without contemplating deep topics such as the definition of human nature.

This brings me on to the introduction of the We Are People movement which we see towards the end of the series. Upon seeing and listening to their speeches as seen on the show, it’s clear that their fear of artificial intelligence comes down to three main reasons: being unable to understand robots (comprehension), losing our roles as humans (redundancy) and the idea that they will take over the world (uprising).


  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!


  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!


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