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  • 15 Jun 2015

Humans: how far would you go?

If you tuned in to Channel 4 last night, you were in for a chilling, unsettling watch. New drama, Humans, takes advancements in technology to a new level, presenting a society using humanoid robots, or synths, as the latest must-have gadget.

The main storyline last night featured the Hawkins family, who invest in synth Anita to help around the house, take control of domestic tasks, and look after the children. However, it soon becomes apparent that Anita might embody more than a machine, when her initial characteristics suggest that she can think and feel.

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Aside from the high-energy thriller feel of the drama, featuring a few super-synths on the run, for the most part, the best thing about the drama is that it makes you think about the “big” questions – humanity, technology, artificial intelligence, and the present.

I hesitate to say “the future”, because the most unnerving feeling I experienced whilst watching Humans is that it isn’t set in the future, but sometime around now. Like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, that I analysed in a blog on the Internet of Things, Channel 4’s writers have a stunning capacity to distance their dramas enough from reality for viewers to have a slightly objective perspective, yet close enough to prickle the back of your neck…

Recent stories in the retail and hospitality sectors point towards the fact that synths aren’t such a giant leap. Last month, Ocado revealed its latest warehouse investment in robots to pick and pack groceries, removing human staff, and increasing the operational efficiency of their warehouses. Of course, this type of robotics doesn’t have a pretty face. But in Japan, the concept is taken further.

A hotel in Nagasaki is to become the first robot-run hotel in the world, hoping to free itself of human employees as a team of 10 robots will check you in, take your bags, interact in 4 languages, and escort you to your room.

Chillingly, the Japanese robotics company, Kokoro, has its scientists working on new features, allowing the “actroids” to sweat and have goose-bumps. If you’re feeling brave, you might want to check out their full range on the company website, drawing parallels with the different “gradings” of synth that Channel 4 introduced us to last night.

By decreasing their reliance on humans to carry out the same task, both Ocado and the Japanese hotel echo the final sentiment of last night’s episode: what if humans become redundant?

Again, a question I’ll repeat from a previous blog: how far would you go? “Would you get one?”, asked in living rooms across the UK last night, was answered by an uneasy “maybe”.

Humans Channel 4


Review by Rhianne Poole,  Marketing Executive at Retail Assist.

2 Responses

  1. Alan Morris says:

    When I was at school the teachers continually referred to the need to be aware of the pending age of leisure that would face us in adult life. Since then I have only experienced technology that means I can do more, not less. I certainly haven’t seen an increase in leisure time.

    We certainly live in an always connected world these days. Maybe, the introduction of “Synths” in the workplace and in our homes will see the change in lifestyle that my teachers predicted all those years ago. If it does, then I guess we are all going to need to think about what we want to as opposed to what we need to do. This sounds great, until you begin to ponder what might come next!

    So, for a person that grew up in a time when the only “synths” about were played by the Human League, I guess it will all take some getting used if it comes to pass.

  2. I find this series so far having similarities to the story of the ‘replicants’ from the film ‘Bladerunner’, trying to hide what they truly are to real humans in society. I’m intrigued to see how the rest of the series unravels, and if there’ll be any further similarities to this film.

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