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Forget ‘The Walking Dead,’ the Walking Gears Might Be TV’s Next Wave
July 23, 2018  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

There is no shortage of zombie fare to load up your DVR or Netflix queue with these days, but even Andrew Lincoln has had his fill. The Walking Dead star has announced his departure from the AMC flagship series at the end of this coming season. Meanwhile, that same cable network has maybe seen the future, and it might be less spattered in gore and mayhem and more wrapped in the adult drama between us and our androids.

AMC’s British import HUMANS just wrapped up its belated third season, and it built imaginatively upon the idea of what happens when androids gain consciousness and self-awareness.

If you think HUMANS is strictly sci-fi fare for the kids, think again and start binging. It’s a rich morality play examining the presumably complex relationships with the artificial intelligence to come. If AI progresses quickly to walking form as the series envisions, are androids our assistants or slaves? Are they our friends (and more) or are they gadgets with no rights?

HUMANS main conceit in Season 1 began with a small group of androids secretly programmed for consciousness, unbeknownst to the population using the rest of them as household and business helpers. In Season 2, those anomalous androids now in the open (distinguished by their green eyes, Emily Berrington as Niska, top), were discriminated against as creepy overtakers, often violently, as opposed to the newly-introduced models with orange eyes, who were not able to gain human self-awareness.

The series' main premise of scorned newcomers is, of course, timely, but beyond the obvious news metaphors, the series also gives a glimpse into societies and economies being radically transformed by workers who can do it all better and faster.

If this all seems way off, consider the far-out technology that has come to pass from Star Trek (phones in your pocket) or from the 2002 neo-noir film Minority Report (touch screens, personalized advertising, retina scans.)

(And if you think things aren’t moving fast, robotic company Boston Dynamics has skeleton walking humanoids now, and a pretty startling dog, here on Youtube.)

Hardly a new subject, androids among us was a regular theme of writer Isaac Asimov, gaining full steam in his 1950 collection I, Robot (later adapted for a 2004 theatrical release). Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner and the Terminator franchises took a decidedly dystopian view of synthetic humans run amok.

More recently, Dick’s short-story Autofac (1955) was adapted this year as part of Amazon Prime’s Electric Dreams anthology, and was an uncanny look at what happens when androids take over an, ahem, Amazon-like conglomerate and refuse to stop manufacturing unwanted consumer goods — much to humans' detriment.

This year also has Amazon’s Zoe, a film with androids intended as life partners, similar to the prospect of 2013’s Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his whip-smart and enchanting operating system.

Those are closer in tone (and reward) to Ovation’s 2018 presentation of the melancholy Marjorie Prime, a look at what happens when the technology exists to create lifelike holograms of lost loved ones allowing us to converse and say the things we may not have had the chance to say.

Also, having just finished its second season, HBO’s Westworld explored territory similar to HUMANS — with a bigger budget and often jaw-dropping production values –– but the mayhem and gun violence is usually so off-putting, the nuance of android politics is buried under a weekly pile of android bodies.

While that body count is as grim as delivered on The Walking Dead, with gore that feels like a bunch of empty calories, Westworld isn’t without its gravitas of what happens when androids do what they look like they’re supposed to; feel and desire as we do.

Series like HUMANS show a near-future where enormous cultural and economic changes must be anticipated — and it feels like they need to be calculated for.

While more the exception than the rule, HUMANS is free of a lot of car chases and gunfights, but there’s plenty of intelligence around to make up for it.

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Thanks for this helpful article.
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Jan 5, 2023   |  Reply
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