I've been toiling around with an idea/story that focused on gene editing, biotechnology, and the concept behind reaching "Singularity" and feel like I've finally found a groove in framing, to have watched this show I'm glad their path isn't similar though I find the show in the questions posed fascinating.
To recap Humans on AMC is about an era in which the must have product in any household is a "Synth" a highly developed robotic servant sharing strong similarities to human beings that almost make them indistinguishable if it weren't for specific features that still come in under the radar and may make it difficult to tell what's human and what's a Synth. The show explores these humanoid mechanisms working in every facet of life from office work, policing, as well as sex workers.
There's a great deal of pschology that takes part in the series from the transformation of humans into synths maintaining their characteristics and traits while removing their ability to learn and think for themselves. The very idea of artificial intelligence and humanoids gaining consciousness would be scary to many, the very notion that an AI would know what it means to be human in a peaceful society is something that's been explored in several films and shows showing the impending apocolypse and robotic overlords though addressing this idea in a way that doesn't completely spell doom and gloom is interesting nonetheless.
I. Subjective Memories
Several different elements were explored in the very fist episode, one of them being the notion of being trapped inside a body and circumstances that are a struggle to escape. An elderly man who's trying to maintain the attachment he has to a synth "Odi" that holds a significant place in his history and heart and the father/son bond that he can't let go and maintains a hold of as he's forced from several different agencies to upgrade to a synth that's able to help him more around his home due to his age. His connection and bond to others is explored more indepth as the strength of his attachment makes more sense than initially realized. Though he tries to show Odi historical memories of his late wife, Odi struggles to maintain memory as it slowly corrodes.
Anita, a synth purchased by the Hawkins family shows signs of more than a simple robotic humanoid as she bares what could be considered a natural curiosity. There are memories that are held by some synths that share a more humane and emotional connection that frustrates those that have grown accustomed to them, one could call them their "owners" or their "family", the very line becomes grey as the series progresses.
The varying characters who are human have a mixed and complex connection with the synths, a seemingly ongoing experience with something the world hasn't fully grasped as a sense of normalcy. In many ways there's a similarity to that of Battlestar Galactica, where the small groupf of synths that have consciousness are trying to find their way while also protecting themselves some in ways that may be deemed as "questionable" with regards to revenge, physical defense, or manipulation. These synths remember and see the regularity of hatred that humans have against them, their navigation of the world has to remain secret while doubting those that may seem sincere in their offering of help.
"True consciousness isn't possible without suffering...or pleasure" -Niska
In episode 5, when Niska was having a conversation with Dr. Millican, they discussed her ability to feel pain, her response was the quote above, "true consciousness isn't possible without suffering or pleasure", he responded with the question of fear where she suggested that what makes them better than humans is they don't feel fear, though his disagreement was in the effect that fear is a part of true consciousness.
Dr. Millican's explanation or rather oration of what it is to be human to Niska as she makes threats throughout their brief encounter, it was more of a lesson in humanity that Niska would effectively learn from and decide on her own what methods she could take and adopt. It's the instruction and lessons one gives to a child, and not to take away the mechanisms of the synths that have the appearance of grown adults their AI is still learning and struggling with the concepts of what humans "decide" to do, the logical questions of "why care for a synth that's malfunctioning when you can buy a new one?" lead to the explanation that some have developed a sensible or emotional connection to synths they've decided against letting go.
"It is a limit of nature, human minds cannot comprehend that their creations could surpass them" -Fred
In episode 6 Professor Hobb has Fred "captured" where Fred who happens to be a synth in the form of a black man questions the nature of freedom, profound to me because of the very situation Professor Hobb had held Fred as well as his assertions of Fred's "freedom" being applicable when Fred agrees to help the Professor which rejects the very idea of what freedom is, that's when Fred expresses the limits of nature and the lack of human understanding, effectively reaching a peak of comprehension that the existance of beings smarter and better than them is a struggle to accept.
In this same episode there's a point where Max the seemingly younger brother of the synths prays in an alter, though Max questions the very notion and reality of a diety as he says himself hasn't been proven. It's interesting that what you could effectively call a machine searched for hope in something that remainds scientifically questionable to himself. That's why one of the most interesting things that was explored to me was the synths that are "hopeful" searching for the very belief that in times of dire situations circumstances could turn around and become more positive when they could calculate ways in which to alter or adjust to their current situations.
The relationship between Mia, Max, Niska, Fred, and Leo is familial, and a bond that is a lot stronger than what some would expect from synths even with consciousness but that would suggest that their consciousness is bound to feel "love" which goes back to the discussion Dr. Millican had with Niska when speaking about his wife. The "awakening" of Mia from her programmed servent self to her conscious self and the embrace she had with Leo and Max was a revelation the Hawkins family weren't expecting, as the reaction was that of seeing loved ones finding eachother after being apart for so long, loved ones who at one point thought they would never see one another again.
"I don't know if you can hear me. Your existance is unproven and seems extremely unlikely." -Max
There's a moment where humans staged an area in town to pay for the chance to mercilessly beat on a synth surrounded by others that are heavily intoxicated was similar to a scene from Steven Spielberg's AI. The hatred and anger expressed as lead pipes were used on the unsuspected robotic humanoids whom didn't have consciousness rather the simple programming of obeying until thir abillity to maneuver was extinguished by the fatal blow. It's interesting in that the very act or expression of this anger is a natural part of humanity, this is something Niska questions and it's a question that's valid. The exploration of the toxicity of humanity toward their very own creation has been explored before, to see the picketing, the rioting, and the destruction of synths felt like something that would actually happen out of the simple fact that people could feel replaced (not to mention the "pleasure" synths that raised a great deal of questions and theories I won't get into here).
The show was a welcome surprise to the point where I bought the first season on iTunes, watching it over and learning of subtle intricacies with the characters and their respective actions. The sacrifices they would make for one another would suggest that they were more humane than those that created them. The diversity of the cast and the acting was something special to see. Battlestar Galactica was one of my favorites because of the concept of robots developing consciousness and forcing humanity to question what exactly it means to be human among other things explored in the show. It's safe to say Humans has become a favorite of mine.
All of the cast was/is solid, though the standouts for me are Gemma Chan/Anita-Mia and Ivanno Jeremiah/Max. The transition Gemma Chan would have from a programming synth to that of one with consciousness as if she's woken from being entrapped continues to be mesmerizing in that it suggested the programmed nature was that of being suffocated or in bondage unable to be what she was designed to be which was to be free. I'm looking forward to what they do outside of this show but I'm most definitely a fan of the two.
The very fact that the five of them carry the code to deliver consciousness to all other synths raises the stakes in a lot of ways, season 2 couldn't get here soon enough.