As it becomes more and more advanced, our relationship with humanised tech and Artificial Intelligence is fraught with tensions and anxiety – there is a fine line between helpful and straight up scary. A phone that can crack jokes? Great! A watch that tells me when to get up and have a little walk around? Yes please! A hologram woman greeting me as I enter Kings Cross station? Hmmm . . . a bit creepy. This cultural anxiety is explored in Channel 4’s upcoming drama Humans which takes us into a parallel world in which people can buy human-like “synths” to look after their houses and their children. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t look like it ends well.
The adverts for the series were disguised as adverts for Persona Synthetics, the synth manufacturer, and the company even has its own website, confusing some people into thinking they could actually buy a robotic assistant. It seems that this series is cutting close to the bone by making us face a reality in which you might really have a human-like robot living in your house and doing your laundry. This was followed up by bringing the concept into the real world, creating a pretend shop front with interactive robot images which could wave at passers-by. Unnerving stuff. Especially as the adverts heavily suggest that the robots get really clever and go rogue.
We were scared enough by Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with a husky-voiced operating system in the film Her, but now Humans places a reality in front of us which doesn’t even really feel that far off. It flags up to us that whilst brands are, and should, readily embrace the advances in technology that allow them to create super personalised products and services, it is important that they bear this cultural anxiety in mind. It will be interesting to see how brands navigate this delicate situation – and whether they manage to avoid scaring their customers.