What would happen if there were a machine that looked human, but could remember every word you ever said? AMC’s new show “Humans” offers us a chance to find out.
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We all know human memory is selective. What we remember—and how closely it reflects the truth—is affected by many factors, including our awareness level, our biases and our emotional state at the time. When objectivity and perfect accuracy are required, as they are in the sports arena or the courtroom, we rely on cameras or recording devices for instant replay and multiple perspectives. But in our homes and our personal relationships, we don’t have referees or court reporters, and we don’t have cameras filming and recording our every move. We have only our (mostly) well-meaning flawed human ability to recall and retell.
Now imagine your home has a new inhabitant—a robot. An artificial intelligence embedded in a human-like form. You’ve brought the robot in to help with housework, cooking, all the chores that take away from time you can enjoy with your family. The robot is programmed to do what you ask, but it—or more like she or he—is more than a machine that completes your tasks in the most efficient way possible. Your robot thinks, reacts, and responds. She asks questions and anticipates your needs. “Do you have anything that needs to go to the cleaners today?” She has conversations with you about the weather, current events, your health, your kids’ homework. She even seems to have a sense of humor.
But what if your robot also had a perfect memory and stored an accurate recall of what you and the other members of your family say and do in front of her? You could ask her if your son promised to do his homework yesterday when he denies it, or whether your daughter said she would be home by ten o’clock when she insists it was eleven. In the game of “he said, she said” with your partner, you could turn to the robot as the arbiter of truth.
In AMC’s ground-breaking new eight-part drama series, Humans, you will meet Anita (uncannily played by Gemma Chan), a highly developed, artificially intelligent servant called a Synth, and watch as the Hawkins family learns how to interact with her. Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill) introduces Anita to his household to give him and his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) the time they desperately need to reconnect and reignite the passion in their strained marriage. But Laura quickly realizes there’s something different about Anita—something not right.
Humans explores how a new human-like presence affects a family and their dynamic. It asks us to imagine having something that is supposed to be near-perfect in our homes.
How would they change our parenting and our marriage or relationship?
Would Synths hold parents and partners to a higher standard, given the robot’s ability to call them on their lies—intentional or accidental? Would we modify our behavior knowing we’re effectively being watched? Would our memory improve and our brains work harder to piece together what actually happened? Or would the robot serve more as a memory aid, the way a calculator frees us from performing mathematical calculations, causing our memory to atrophy because we no longer need to use it?
Given a Synth’s intelligence and her ability to learn, would she remain completely objective, or would she begin to form opinions and judgments about one or more family members that influence the narrative she presents as fact? She might, for example, learn to characterize a couple’s argument in a certain way to give an advantage to one partner or the other.
In creating Humans, AMC takes us into a futuristic world that is also a parallel present, a world that seems far away but could be just around the corner, a world that forces us to confront what defines our humanity.
We’ve often heard people use the expression, “I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that house.” Robots like Synths would be much more than flies. They would be flies with eye-cameras and the ability to speak. Knowing how humanity uses technology, it’s hard to know whether the robots we’re talking about here would encourage us to be more honest, forthright, and direct, or whether we would use our own intelligence to find new ways to manipulate and outwit the robots or simply use them to our own personal advantage. AMC’s Humans helps us explore these very questions.
Watch the series premiere of Humans Sunday, June 28 at 9/8c on AMC.
This post was written in partnership with AMC
Readers also have the opportunity to win $2,500 during the week of June 21 to June 28. Fans are encouraged to post their thoughts here, on the four HUMANS posts on The Good Men Project, and one comment will be chosen at random for the grand prize.
Read the rest of our authors’ thoughts and insights about HUMANS and the future of robots, and see more exciting trailers from this groundbreaking series:
Synthetic Love, Could a Human Fall In Love With a Robot? by Lisa Hickey
Do Androids Dream of Informed Consent? by Harris O’Malley
Could a Race of Highly Intelligent Robots Teach Us About Our Own Prejudices? by Anne Thériault