Humans has made me fear the technology making our lives easier

Channel 4's drama about domestic robots poses serious questions about the technology we unquestioningly rely on - and it's left Ellie Walker-Arnott feeling insecure

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In my industry, new technology is something to be embraced. Each change, upgrade or brand new invention is exciting. As a writer for RadioTimes.com, I happily adopt strange social media platforms, digital fads and new ways of doing things. The moment I don’t is probably the moment I’m done.

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I’ll be honest and admit I don’t always understand exactly what it is I’m welcoming into my life. I’m far from tech-illiterate, but some apps, codes, cables and the meaning of wonderful words like widget do sail a little over my head. But these things are always, always a good thing, right?

Well, I’m not so sure any more. Channel 4’s brilliant Sunday-night drama Humans has left me feeling wrong-footed.

The sci-fi series, following the Hawkins family and their domestic robot Anita, has made for gripping and unsettling viewing. The drama, starring the likes of Gemma Chan, Katherine Parkinson and Colin Morgan, asks serious questions about the technology we’ve invented.

These are questions I’ve never really been prompted to ponder before. I’m not a big sci-fi fan. The threat technology poses to the human race has always felt very fantastical, very Hollywood and – at worst – a very, very long time away.

But Humans is set in a London identical to ours. The only difference being that owning a “synth” is as commonplace as owning an iPad. Advances in technology have resulted in something designed to make our human lives easier, but it’s also stronger, fitter, more attractive, more intelligent and more capable of surviving than we are.

Over the last seven episodes of Humans, I’ve been rooting for the sentient synths – willing Leo to survive, to revive Fred, to find Mia and for them all to find acceptance and freedom – but the closer we get to the finale, the less sure I am of how I want the series to conclude. Because if the synths get what they want it will put the future of humanity as we know it at risk. It’s an unsettling position to be in as a viewer.

Of course, Humans depicts an extreme situation but it has got me thinking. Is there something a little bit worrying about the fact that I can’t find my way around the city I live in without the help of my mate Google Maps? I don’t remember facts or bother to recall dates, because Wikipedia is quicker and never more than a click away.

In fact, we are so used to being able to Google the answer to any and every dilemma, do we actually know stuff any more? I’m not sure how much information I personally retain – my Notes app is more like my long-term memory. And for those of us who aren’t inventors, creators and tech geniuses, does that make us worse humans? Vulnerable and stupid humans?

Perhaps we should question, examine and even fear the technological advances we so unquestioningly rely on. 

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Humans concludes on Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4


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