What is it about Artificial Intelligence that fascinates and frightens us out so much? Well, aside from the Terminator-esque future foretold over and over again through popular media. Maybe it’s the feelings of irrelevance we begin to feel when we realize machines can do things better, faster and with more accuracy than we ever could. Perhaps it even causes us to delve deep into philosophical questions about soul, consciousness and self. When you put it that way, I guess it is a little frightening. Sounds like it would make a good television show. Lars Lundström thought so when he created the show Real Humans, a 2001 Swedish original series. It seems the BBC & AMC agreed, as an English adaption of the show aired both here and abroad starting June 14 of 2015 renamed simply, Humans.
I went into Humans knowing one thing: I like British Drama. I was not disappointed.
Humans, though slow-paced, is a well thought out story in a parallel reality to our own. Parallel in that it doesn’t take place in the future, but it takes place in a modern setting where Synths, humanoid robots, are as common place as the new iPhone. Synths are being used by the police, medical professionals, the entertainment industry and more. This societal integration has cost jobs, broken up marriages and brought about a rise in anti-synth propaganda. It should be said synths, on their own are not intelligent, they themselves are governed by Asimov’s three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Sounds foolproof right? Well, if Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park) is to be believed, “Life finds a way.” Indeed it does.
Humans revolves around the Hawkins family. The Hawkins are your standard family: two parents, two kids and in need of a lot of help. Enter Anita, brilliantly played by Gemma Chan, a formerly self-aware synth with suppressed memories. The true stars of Humans and the source of the deepest philosophical argument of consciousness lie in a group of synthetics that have been given true intelligence and are desperate to bring their family back together while avoiding detection. Anita, formerly of this group of intelligent synths, is purchased by Mr. Hawkins to help pick up the slack around the home in his wife’s absence. The implications of this purchase are wide and far-reaching and will forever alter the Hawkins’ family future.
Humans delves into some deep philosophical waters in its eight episode series length. Luckily, like Ex-Machina released in April, the writers knew how to swim. Questions of consciousness, creation and humanity are dealt with an ease and finesse uncommon to the sci-fi genre as of late. Humans will leave you with more questions than you had going into it and may even challenge you on some of your prior beliefs. Isn’t that what a good story should do? It’s easy to understand why BBC and AMC saw something special in Humans.
If you’re bored with the “artificial intelligence equals death sci-fi” storylines of the last five years you should check out Humans.
Let us know what you think about it in the comments below.