As the way with my family, my daughter started watching Humans and next came her insistence that I watch as well. I can’t say anything except that I love the show; from the open credits to the very end of each episode.
On the surface, Humans shows us a world in which synths, eerily humanlike robots in their look, sound and feel, are programmed to work as health care aids, childcare workers, maids, prostitutes, office employees, farm workers and the list goes on. Who wouldn’t love to own a robot who cooks, cleans, minds the children and does all the stuff we don’t want to do? But do these robots, created to assist us, to make our lives easier really do that?
Multiple story lines are woven together and at the center, four synths are specially programmed by the synth creator with something extra for his “children.” He gave them artificial intelligence; the real ability to learn and change according to their experiences. They feel pain and love and all human emotion and with that ability the robots plan and act, and affect others around them. They are smart enough to pass as human or as synth unless approached by other synths as these special robots are missing a standard technology, the ability to share information with other synths. It makes their true self obvious.
Early in the series we are shown the down side of this technology that was created to make our lives easier. As the synths are programmed with more skills and abilities, an animosity grows in humans because quickly we are becoming obsolete; all manner of jobs and careers are now being programmed in the robots. Mattie Hawkins, teenage daughter of Joe and Laura, is an incredibly bright girl who falters in school. She’s given up trying because she knows the synths are taking over, so why bother.
Her mother Laura feels the tug between being a full-time lawyer and a mother. Rather than the robot making her life easier by cooking, cleaning and watching the children, Laura’s life is falling apart as the synth becomes caretaker, housewife and sex toy to her husband. It’s an embodiment of a mother’s struggle with the guilt of working and leaving her children or staying with her children and feeling guilty that she should be at work.
Joe brought the synth into the home as a gift to his wife to ease her struggle but the synth is more like a magnifying glass illustrating the fracture that already existed between the couple. They don’t talk, have little time for each other and Joe turns to the robot, prying them further apart.
Laura Hawkins never happy with the purchase of the synth and distrusts the robot, still finds the synth curious and investigates the possible legal case of a woman who wants to sue a theater because it wouldn’t allow her to bring her synth to see a show. The case, which Laura deems invalid, would have been about the synth having rights. They are so life-like that in both instances, one forgets that they aren’t really human at all.
The stories of the other three synths programmed with artificial intelligence, are just as eye-opening. We get a glimpse into the lives of the police officers who investigate the crimes committed by synths or their owners, and the difficulties of dealing with robots like Niska who feels disgust for her situation and is intelligent enough to fight her way out of a brothel by killing a client, and joins a fight club to attack humans. The manhunt for this killer of humans brings into question the role of artificial intelligence and should we move ahead with the technology. Is it worth it?
Humans weaves the story lines in and out connecting each through these four artificially intelligent creations, provoking thoughts of how technology both helps and hinders. And you wonder sometimes, have we gone too far?
Humans is on AMC Sunday’s at 9PM EST.