Friday, January 11, 2019

Real Humans (movie review)

Technically speaking, Real Humans is a TV serial, not a movie, however my umbrella tag "(movie review)" makes a useful search string, so I'll keep to it. What adds a layer is the production is natively Swedish with subtitles hacked on by some mysterious process VLC could decode.

Having one's culture mirrored back through another's is something I got used to, living in the Philippines.  Sweden is a parallel universe.

The setting is more or less the present, in terms of USB ports, laptops, computer viruses, cell phones. There are no cloud AI personalities selling train tickets (hi Julie), or if there are, they're not front and center, because in this parallel universe they've figured out some stuff ours hasn't (yet).

It's our world with the small, added, some might say world-breaking, feature of conscious robots, called hubots in this world.

A very movie-literate person might be flashing on Kubrick's AI and the TV series (movie-launched) Westworld. When great care is taken to have the hubots seem real, the cinematic problem of creating robots goes away, as you need a way of acting like a robot.  Same in Walking Dead:  you don't need crazy fancy computer effects.  Just cast ordinary people and teach them a few tricks.

I say the above without in any way intending to trivialize the brilliant work these performances embody.  Real Humans does a wonderful job of inventing how humans would act, if artificial.  Of course they get grumpy about their 2nd class status, wouldn't we?

They take their cues from us after all.

Civil rights for robots is where things logically go, once you have them established as "matching humans as closely as technologically possible".

Real Humans explores implications, no matter how absurd from our world's viewpoint, with empathy and humor.  The teen boy develops the syndrome of having a crush on an android and beyond that, really having more sense of attraction to this non-human species.  A hubot gets religion and can't get enough church.  The killer blond (no the other one) wants to adopt.

Speaking of which, the hubots don't age except in the sense of wear out.  Odi's battery goes bad and he has to stay plugged in, exactly like my Mac Air (except I don't think it's the battery necessarily).

We do not see any children nor baby hubots, nor pets (rather amazingly).

I'm not saying that's a flaw in terms of keeping the plots manageable and a core story in focus.  Who is the evil genius who figured out a way to make hubots self aware?

But isn't that a necessary component of biomimicry in this instance?  Would we suspend disbelief if seen by others to be talking to our dolls (short answer:  sure, happens every day).