Humans is a new science fiction series (based on the Swedish series Äkta människor, a.k.a. Real Humans) centering around the concept of having humanoid synthetic robots being a common appearance around the world and doing human work, from being assigned to specific people as helpers to doing hard labor work. The plot revolves around one synthetic woman (recently named Anita) being sold to a man and his family to help around the house, however it is revealed that she is one of a handful of synthetics who were specifically designed to think and feel like humans, unlike other synthetics out there. She, along with a few others, were stolen and sold for profit, and some are now being hunted because of their unique programming which allows them to become sentient beings.
While the concept itself isn't anything new, the way this show is presenting the creation of artificial intelligence in humanoid lifeforms is intriguing enough to continue asking the difficult and challenging questions about what it means to be human.
Where we see certain characters completely disregard their assigned synthetics, we have others who have made an emotional connection with them. Where some have fear and the contempt of having one invading their private lives, we have others who aren't afraid and are happy to have them around. Similar themes regarding the concern of treating them like things rather than separate beings, simply because they are machines and the notion that machines cannot feel therefore treating them like they're nothing more than just scrapes of metal to be used and discarded. This becomes more affective with the plot surrounding the sentient synthetics who are pretending not to be feeling, thinking beings of their own and have to be abused so nobody finds out about them. The one girl who ends up being sold into a brothel and having to fake not being affected by what she goes through, despite the fact that she can turn off her pain simulator (but chooses not to because she was designed to feel and doesn't want that to go away even when she's taken advantage of); it's something to think about, especially with the notion that they're replacing real people with machines who have no individual agency or autonomy of their own and therefore anything goes, including being sexually victimized. How is that morally right? Because you assume they're not feeling and it makes it okay? How is that any different from human trafficking?
Then there's Anita, who has recently been bought to become a housekeeper for a family, and where tensions arise because some of the members view her as just a machine with no feelings or emotions. The wife in particular feels uneasy with Anita around, first feeling replaced as a wife and then replaced as a mother. Most of it is due to being away for long periods of time thanks to her demanding job, leaving her husband to try and take care of things at home, so she feels disconnected with her family. Now with Anita around she feels like she isn't wanted, and that her territory is being threatened by a synthetic who is almost replacing her role around the house. This tension is quite interesting because her attitude is similar to other people's attitudes re: synthetics, however with Anita, being one of the handful that were created to feel, this does bring up some intriguing circumstances with her feelings about things around the house. We know that she's obviously pretending not to feel for the sake of doing her job, but it does make you wonder whether she was reprogrammed but is remembering certain things here and there and understanding that she isn't like the rest of the synthetics, or that she does remember and merely observing. Her connection with the youngest daughter is rather curious. She clearly has some affection for her, that ending seemed to be something like a dream where she is walking down the street with the child in her arms, perhaps her own dream about wanting to have a child and family of her own someday and being around this family, with that little girl, has enabled that feeling in her again. Who knows, but it should be interesting how all this plays out with Anita being involved with this family and what happens if/when things get found out about her.
The show underlines the common fear most have about machines becoming self-aware and therefore becoming superior and we, the human race, will become inferior. But there is also the question about the human connection, that even with the synthetics being created can they provide that connection that some are lacking? Creating memories, friendships, a companion, etc. Add in the aspect that some of them were created to feel, to think freely and to be their own individual outside of being commanded by others through programming, it takes another step into understanding how we treat each other versus how we treat machines, and how ultimately everything is connected together. Can synthetic machine and human coexist together as their own individual identities and connect with each other along with ourselves? Or since their original creation was to make human lives better, and by having the possibility that some can be programmed not to be servants anymore create more problems?
(Which interestingly enough is kind of a commentary on how we've become very dependent on technology today; our advancements in creating so many different technological enhancements to better our daily lives sort of coincides with this in a way.)
I have no idea whether this show is going to go with the machine uprising route that other stories usually have with this concept, which I can imagine seeing certain situations turning into that with them being mistreated and wanting to have their own personhood instead of being viewed and treated like things that humans can control. Also, I want more about Colin Morgan's character and how he is connected to all of this. Is he the creator of these few sentient synthetics? Did he connect with them all on a personal level and wanted to help them escape captivity? Was he the caretaker of them and is responsible for their well-being, keeping them safe?
So far, as being someone who feels a lot of emotions about robots (see: Battlestar Galactica, Caprica and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), this show certainly is up my alley as something worth watching and checking out. The plot is fascinating and intriguing to the point where I am curious on where it's going to go.
While the show recently premiered on AMC here in the US just the other day, it is a couple episodes ahead in the UK where it originally premiered. I will be watching the second and third episode shortly.