Humans: Pinocchio for the 21st Century

What are The Terminator, I, Robot or even 2001: A Space Odyssey if not modern adaptations of the beloved tale of Pinocchio, the little wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy. When Pinocchio was first written in 1883 by Italian writer Carlo Collodi, wooden carvings were the height of technology. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, technology has greatly advanced and as such, the potential for our creations taking on a life of their own becomes even creepier and can lead to some interesting debates. The latest in this string of cautionary tales is new television series Humans. 

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The build-up to the release of this new series was interesting to say the least. I remember when I first watched the advert that actually seemed to be selling a real AI with the characteristics of the human. Some members of the public freaked out and the reactions at home were immediately split down the middle. My mother was absolutely certain that, if these miracles ever came to be, she would definitely want one around the house. Maybe I’ve seen too many films along the lines of I, Robot or cheesy Halloween movies where even a truck can come to life and want to kill you. If robots with the intelligence of a human were ever invented, I wouldn’t trust one or have one anywhere near me. Although, I guess the adverts served their purpose because they got our attention, we found further trailers for the show online and eagerly waited for the release date.

Now that the show is three episodes in, a story arc is starting to take shape so I feel better giving me initial thoughts on Humans. Off the top of my head I would definitely call it an intriguing show with good elements of mystery and a story line that isn’t too predictable. After watching the first episode I definitely found the robots, or “Synths” as they are called on the show, creepy but as the plot has progressed I find myself slowly starting to sympathise with the Synths when they are used for menial labour and as sex toys (although, I’ve been to some websites and most of the advances in this sort of technology are in the sex toy industry). It makes one wonder, would the sex industry and the labour industry be revolutionalised if something like this existed? But if so, what would happen if they started to develop an understanding of human emotions and began to question their position as slaves to their human overlords? At what point would we have to stop considering them machines and acknowledge their humanity? One thing I really love about this show is that, no matter how you feel about the story lines, each episode raises questions about what actually makes someone a person and how technology can affect the way society will advance. Humans raises these questions by showing the Synths in several different situations; in a family home, in a government capacity (healthcare and hospitality) and in the way they form emotional connections.

The scenes with the family of five interacting with their new Synth, Anita, perfectly reflect my predictions of what would happen if we had these things in our home; the youngest child sees it as a shiny new toy, the oldest sees it as a threat to future job prospects (because, yeah, how will the youth of future generations find work when a robot can do it better and for free?) and the pubescent boy uses it to deal with its confusing feelings making the rest of us feel uncomfortable. The most interesting person in this equation is the mother; she doesn’t trust Anita and feels her position in the house is being usurped. It’ll be interesting to see where this storyline goes, especially since there is defintely something off about Anita. But mysterious Synths aside, this is possibly exactly what would happen if a family got some robotic help.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the family scenes that convinced my mother she didn’t want one – it was the scenes with the old man and the Synth nurse. For some reason the idea that a machine could dictate her diet and lifestyle without any input from herself really freaked her out. The old man said it himself; she’s not a carer, she’s a jailer. We’ve seen it before; we put technology in charge of our health and well-being, and they eventually see humanity as a threat to themselves. Perhaps this is how it would start…

The plot that I am most eager to follow however, are the Synths themselves. They appear to have knowledge of human emotions but how? One has had their memory wiped but is slowly getting back, one appeared to be fully human yet needed t be charged after an injury and one has progressed to full on murder. Where will all this lead?

What are your thought on Humans? Feel free to leave thoughts and observations in the comments below.

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