AMC’s new series, “Humans”, inspires us to ponder the very essence of love.
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Could you picture yourself falling in love with a robot? Like, head over heels, mad infatuation type love? If you did, would that be “real love”? Or is there even such a thing as real love? Let’s look why this seemingly unlikely scenario is much closer than you think—without even going warp speed into the future.
1) Falling in love over the Internet.
Even for people who haven’t done it, you could imagine falling in love with someone over the Internet. You meet online. You connect. You share your history. You reveal parts of yourself. Your secrets. You talk. You become emotionally intimate. You might fall in love with the other person’s ideas, or the way they talk, or the sound of their voice. You imagine a life together even if you are miles apart. You create a life together, even if only virtually.
You could love someone forever in that way. You might never meet them, but you could care about them, care for them, help them, love them—-you could have all that love without connecting human-to-human. What you are interacting with in your real, physical life, is a machine. But no one would question whether it was love.
2) Falling in love with someone who isn’t real. Or someone who is real, but the relationship is not.
I remember being a teenager and “falling in love” with a boy we’ll call Rob. I was enamored of Rob and I imagined what our life would be like if we were dating. I had fake conversations in my head of what I thought we would say, places we would go, how we would touch. I imagined a dozen different scenarios for how it would start.
I didn’t actually love Rob, of course, I loved the some abstract idea of him, and I loved the thought of having a relationship with someone and Rob filled that need. It’s no different, really, than when we fall in love with celebrities, or with characters in a novel or the stranger on the street. What we are really doing in those cases is falling in love with the possibilities of what our life could be like. Our life could be better. But regardless of whether you agree that the love is real—the feeling sure feels real.
And what about the modern phenomenon of “Catfishing”? You fall in love with a created person. Even if someone one is creating a fake reality, even if you are being Catfished—people can and do fall in love with the idea of someone. The person isn’t real, but the feeling of love is.
3) Immortal, endless love….via algorithm.
Software is already being developed where, in the not-so-distant future, an algorithm might look at all aspects of a person while they are living and create a way for the living to have conversations with that person after they die. It’s billed as being “Like a Skype call from your past.” The thinking is, if you know enough about any given person, you can create a most likely scenario of what that person would say or do in any given situation.
Creepy? Yes. Love? That is the question.
The interesting thing about relationships is that the people in a relationship change. But isn’t that the promise of artificial intelligence? AI grows smarter the more information that you give it. It adapts and changes as you adapt and change. And that can look a lot like love.
Is there a difference, then, between “real” love and “synthetic” love? Is “artificial intelligence” really “artificial”?
If a robot could learn from us what behaviors constitute love, if they could learn about how to behave when we are in love—then, theoretically at least—a robot could learn to love us back.
Could you fall in love with a Synth?
AMC’s newest show Humans is ostensibly about robots. It takes place in the parallel present, where, in a suburb of London, “Synths” are the newest robotic toy—the must-have futuristic tech gadget. These robots are designed to do all of the mindless, repetitive tasks that robots ought to be doing—the vacuuming, the laundry, the gardening, the tidying up around the house. Sure, they look like people—although people who move with slightly slower, stereotypically robotic movements. They are not “us”. As one husband says to his wife with exasperation, “It’s a machine!”
And we couldn’t possibly fall in love with a machine, could we?
Now imagine yourself in a family where a Synth is in your home. And—yes, it’s a robot, yes it’s synthetic—but this Synth does things for you. There is no longer an abstraction of an idea. It’s no longer just an interaction with a computer screen. A Synth who serves dinner, who does laundry, who vacuums, who laughs at your jokes—is, in reality, making your life better, easier, happier. A robot is actually caring for you, and doing things uniquely suited to your needs. A robot is doing things that are often equated with acts of love.
When two humans are in love, we talk about connection and communication and anticipation of needs and putting up with each other’s flaws and faults and quirks. AMC makes Humans even more uncanny by creating each of the “Synths” to be completely different, like humanity. Each has its own personality, its own set of faults and flaws and quirks. There are all the trappings of love, and then, added onto it, there’s a uniqueness, there’s an ability to communicate, and there is a someone who looks after your every need and makes your life better.
Which would be the lesser love? Loving a living human who is not really real—or loving a robot who does appear to be?
There’s a moment in AMC’s trailer that sums this in one tiny, poignant gesture. A Synth named Anita puts her hand on Joe Hawkins’ hand. He asks, “So what happens now?”
And asking that question is the question of our time. “So what happens now?”
Will this give us more opportunities to really fall in love? Can we use robots as “practice” love? Will connecting with “fake” humans expand the way we can connect with real humans?
“So what happens now?” As technology changes almost faster than we can process that change, we have to keep asking ourselves that question.
AMC’s Humans explores that fascinating space where love and technology collide.
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 (and confirm with Rafflecopter below), 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:
Do Androids Dream of Informed Consent? by Harris O’Malley
Could a Robot Make Your Relationship Better? by Thomas G. Fiffer
Could a Race of Highly Intelligent Robots Teach Us About Our Own Prejudices? by Anne Thériault