There is More to “Humans” Than Robots

There have been numerous TV shows and movies that imagine humanoid robots that can think for themselves. Movies like “Artificial Intelligence,” “I, Robot,” and most recently, “Ex Machina,” pose the same questions: if robots were to become “conscious,” then should they get the same rights as humans? Should we treat sentient robots as equals to humans? Should we fear a robot uprising? What if robots develop emotions and a sense of self, then would using them as servants be tantamount to slavery? If a machine could feel pain, anger, remorse, even love, then what would the responsibility of humanity be to that machine? Could a person care and love a robot that could have mutual feelings for people? Those are the questions that get explored throughout “Humans,” a British TV show that imagines a near future where “Synths,” robots that were developed to appear as humans, are purchased to work menial jobs, administer health care, provide sex and entertainment, or be surrogate companions.

The first season focuses on the Hawkins family, who decide to buy a Synth since both parents work and cannot always tackle day-to-day chores. Laundry piles up, dishes don’t get washed, and the household clearly needs some cleaning and organization. The children refuse to take on any of the tasks, so the father (Tom Goodman-Hill) takes it upon himself to purchase a Synth to help with tasks around the house. The Synth is given the name “Anita” (Gemma Chan) and instantly integrates into their family. The mother (Katherine Parkinson), who was out on a business trip, returns, angered and is against owning the Synth. She tries to find reasons to return “Anita” but the family gets too attached to “her.” The youngest daughter, Sophie (Pixie Davies), in particular seems to become more attached to the Synth than anyone else, finding a loving and caring “adult” figure in “Anita” that will always be there for her. Over time, the family realizes Anita actually helped to bring them closer together than they were before. The Synth made them more “human.”

We also follow the life of Leo Elster (Colin Morgan) and his “family” of Synth vagabonds who are on the run from the authorities. They get separated while escaping and slowly begin to regroup. Their journey takes us right up to the Hawkins family doorstep where they learn that their home Synth is actually special.

“Humans” offers a different approach to imagining a future where robots are an everyday part of our lives. As season two suggests, robots may one day challenge our own ideas of what it means to be human. Season one is available on AMC’s streaming app or on Amazon Prime. Upcoming episodes of season two are on AMC on Mondays at 10:00 p.m.

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