The Problem With Humans

Gemma Chan plays Anita, a Synth (synthetic human) in the drama Humans

No, this post isn’t about our species.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Humans is a new Sci-Fi drama currently showing on Channel 4 in the UK and AMC in the United States. It’s set in today’s world; characters use tablets and laptops with today’s level of technology. The key difference is the existence of synthetic humans (“synths”). These are artificially intelligent robots, built to look like humans.

I’ve watched a few episodes and one of the major themes explored is how real humans react to these synths in their lives. Some people are perfectly comfortable, others are completely disturbed by them.

But therein lies the problem that I have with the series. There doesn’t appear to be any intermediate level of technology between what we have today and these fantastically complex robots. As a result, the characters don’t seem to have had any time to habituate to the increasingly complex technology. Given that huge technology gap, the robots are just as alien to the characters as, well, aliens.

Despite this problem though, it’s an interesting drama, exploring complex themes. No doubt as real Artificial Intelligence becomes widespread in many different devices, we’ll see the same kind of reactions, including the tendency for real humans to anthropomorphize our toys.

Humans is currently showing on AMC in the United States and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

3 thoughts on “The Problem With Humans

  1. I agree with your observation, but I always got the impression from the series that there was a breakthrough in the technology from a stealthy group of researchers.

    Beyond that I believe that given the proper and sufficient sensory ‘Involvement’, connected with the technology will trigger self-awareness in AI algorithms.


    • Thanks for reading and for your comment.
      Your impression is right. There are indications in the opening credits about the breakthrough you refer to.
      I think though that if such a breakthrough really occurred, AI would be added to many more appliances first before a fully autonomous, human-like robot.


  2. It will be a long time before Real Artificial Intelligence come to play like the story says. In the mean time the Problematic Human who wrote this has no idea what a Real AI is and how to design them…it is like those Gods of many thousand years of stories….no one has seen it and make up their stories….just enjoy it.

    As to new researchers…I have talked to US Navy and my idea is we are a long way off….


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