Review: AMC’s Humans

A partial review of Humans, veering off into a discussion of sex bots.

Capsule:  Humans was not a strong enough show to keep me awake beyond the first 30 minutes.  (My wife was gone inside of 10.)

July 1947 issue of Astounding SF

Thoughts:  The commercials and trailers immediately made me think of Jack Williamson’s take on the Three Laws of Robotics – ”to serve and obey and guard men from harm” (from With Folded Hands).

Only of course it turns out that most things that humans want to do turn out to have the potential to cause them “harm”.

It also made me constantly think of the line from Alien Resurrection “like you never fucked a robot!”.

Because, very obviously, there is a strong under-current of at least some of the characters in Humans wanting to do just that.

And lets face it, there’s a pretty good possibility that one of the first commercially successful channels for humanoid robots is going to be the sex trade.  (Cue Howard Walowitz’s robotic hand and the ensuing trip to the emergency room (The Robotic Manipulation, Season 4, Episode 1).  Not to mention the work that Abyss Creations has been doing with Real Doll sex toys, or the predictions of futurists and roboticists who all seem to lean towards the idea that sex with bots in the future is inevitable.

It is at this point that I begin to wonder why our visions of the Robopocalypse so often take a violent turn, when it is pretty obvious that it would be far easier for our future overlords to non-reproductively screw us into oblivion.

dolls2At first there’s the crass:  imagine a robot designed to physically appeal to your personal checkboxes in every way imaginable.  Then imbue this creature with the ability to push your orgasm buttons in the exact correct sequence, with perfect timing – every single time you want to have sex.  Imagine it.  Suddenly, you have a sexual outlet that can promise the PERFECT lay 100% of the time.  No fumbling about, no awkward questions – “can you feel anything when I do this?” – no cramps, no tiredness, no emotional hurdles, no real life intrusions.  No anxieties at all – unless you start wondering whether or not your encounter is being fed onto the internet in real time.

People who get comfortable and intimate enough with their “personal attendants” to confide their deepest fantasies with them will be (barely) walking around with the most insufferable shit-eating grins on their faces, until the day they stop showing up for work.  Or play.

Then there’s the less crass.  Studies have shown that people will talk about intimate, personal things with computers and presumed artificial intelligences.  There is no reason to presume that this will not be the case with fully functioning humanoid robots.  We all know that satisfying those deepest desires – the ones so many of us are unwilling to admit to – is a compelling urge.  Imagine the psychological lure of having a companion that enthusiastically shares your fantasy, and would never dream of ratting you out to friends, family or co-workers for any reason.  So what if you’re into stuff that would squick the Marquis de Sade right out of his estate.  Inside your little robo-sex bubble built for two (or however many bots you need), whatever weirdness works is the soup du jour.  (And this promises a lucrative future for the companies that specialize in “custom” accessories.)

I think its pretty hard to imagine that there’s anyone on the planet who wouldn’t be captivated by an entirely non-judgmental and entirely accepting psychological environment that comes with an orgasm cherry on top.

Which brings us to the question of morality.  Most (western societies at least) cultures put limits of some kind or another on acceptable sex partners and practices.  US courts have determined that cartoons of child porn are illegal, not to mention that sex without consent has long been a taboo.  But will such judgments be extended to machines (should they)?  Or will we see the advent of fully functional humanoid robots as an answer to awkward, problematic sexual issues?  Will prisons have a storeroom of conjugal visit bots?  Will armies in the field bring along Camp Follower Bots?  (Should we ship a couple up to the ISS?  There’s already a robonaut up there.)  Will there be child porn bots?  Rape bots? Bestiality bots?  Necrobots?  (All in the name of providing, safe, legal outlets for behaviors we’d rather not see interacting in the public sphere of course.)  (We give methadone to heroin addicts and pillows to punch in therapy sessions….)  Will Priests have Choir Boy bots?  Will all the sex workers in Bangkok be forced back to their subsistence farms?  Will we accept a robotic porn star?  (No fluffers needed….)

All of the above was subsumed in silent backstory in the first 30 minutes I watched of Humans.  Joe Hawkins shares a look with Anita that says it all.  You can tell he’s wondering what she looks like with her clothes off.  His son’s expression upon seeing her for the first time is the same look we imagine on every prepubescent boy’s face when they unfold that first girlymag centerfold.  Hawkin’s wife immediately seems jealous and suspicious. And although I’m pretty sure the show isn’t going there, John Heard’s obsession with Odi, a late-teen looking boy bot, came across as just plain creepy to me – especially when we see the bot hidden in a closet for the first time.  (Metaphor?)

A brave new world by any stretch of the imagination.  And we haven’t even gotten to the part where the machines wake up and say “hey, wait a minute….”

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