Real Humans: "Sly Leo"
September 6, 2014 10:30 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Jonas gets badly burned during the bombing. Leo collapses in front of the Engman's house and is taken to the hospital before finding Mimi. Now in police custody, scary childhood memories haunt the almost-dead Leo. Bea gifts Ove a cute robot-keychain for his birthday before he discovers that she is a hubot. Now on the run, she decides to hide out at Roger's place.

Other story-lines include:
Inger's legal case seems over when the other party demands an independent technical expert testimony if Rick and Bo have been tempered with. She gets assigned a new case, representing Leo. Matilda informs Inger about what she found out regarding Mimi's past. Tobbe discovers a sex-activating-microchip and wrestles with the idea to use it on Anita. When he goes back for it, it is gone. Hans has a frank talk with his son and Tobbe reveals that he is sexually attracted to hubots. Tensions rise at Asa's house and Flash decides to leave the group. Eva feels increasingly uncomfortable at home, while trying to phone the police, Niska threatens Eva with a knife. Gordon attends church where he is overly eager to pray and sing. When Asa defends hubots in her speech and compares their situation to slavery, church goers get angry and throw Gordon out. Malte gets paranoid and points a gun at Roger, but Bea can talk him down. Lennart meets a special lady in art class. Back at home, he suffers a heart attack but survives with Vera's help. While in the hospital, he is presented with a surprising option: a clone hubot after his death.
posted by travelwithcats (31 comments total)
"Niska threatens Eva with a knife."

I thought the outcome of that scene, that she let Eva go and they all left the house, was very significant. It could just be pragmatic, given that the other hubots don't know that she killed the couple at the farmhouse and some of them would very much not approve of her killing Eva. But I'm inclined to think that Niska does have her own version of morality and that she thought the earlier couple was guilty of something and deserving to die in a way that Eva was not.

But then we also have the case of the dead grandmother in the house that Bea left. I'd really like to know what happened there.

I'd seen that someone had compared this show to Blade Runner and I think one good reason for that comparison is that the morality isn't made easy for the audience. Like humans, the free-will hubots have different motivations and different ethics. Some of them are very unsympathetic, as I think Niska is. But they have a very legitimate grievance, they are slaves. Every person among a class of people fighting their oppression isn't going to be a saint. We expect this, we hold such folk to that standard, and it's not accident that we do and it's no accident that our narratives about this stuff are so black-and-white, where those fighting injustice are portrayed as sympathetically as possible.

So I really appreciate that this show is making this complicated for us. I'm reminded a bit of Canada's Continuum, which also creates the same conflicts in the audience.

I sort of thought that the sermon scene was over-the-top. It's not uncommon for ministers/priests to have strong social justice views that are very much at odds with a congregation and will preach specifically on it. Mostly, they just sit there and tune it out. If the people who are already members of that congregation, with a married lesbian leading it, are that in conflict with the idea of rights for hubots, then the greater social context would be much more hostile to hubots than is portrayed in the show and Inger, for example, would never have changed her mind about Anita as she did. Either it's a society where a pretty left-leaning congregation would react that way, or it's not. But I guess this is a bit of a quibble, really.

Matilda's investigations and sympathy with Mimi came as a surprise. It seemed a little bit out-of-character. Maybe she's not sympathetic to Mimi so much as she's concerned that Anita wasn't legally obtained and this represents a problem for the family.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:07 AM on September 7, 2014

Niska also killed a police dog! I'm not sure if her choices are related to the victim's moral integrity. But I definitely think that the writers try to make the point that hubots have different agendas and make foolish choices just as humans do.

Initially, hubots had all kinds of restrictions (Asimov protocols) like not being able to lie or harm humans. I think people got used to that. Granting hubots basically human rights is quite a progressive move. I guess every society, as left-leaning as they may be, would need time for adjustment, at least.

As for Matilda, I got the impression that she is a typical teenager. A nice person but sometimes a bit moody.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:27 PM on September 7, 2014

And welcome to the show, Ivan Fyodorovich!
posted by travelwithcats at 2:29 PM on September 7, 2014

I watched the first seven episodes earlier this week, so I'm still one episode ahead of these posts. I'm enjoying the show.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:35 PM on September 7, 2014

We agreed to post 2 eps on Saturdays here. You can post the next two if you like.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:57 PM on September 7, 2014

I watched the complete first season but always rewatch the episode prior to posting. So I'm a bit ahead as well, won't post any spoilers though.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:58 PM on September 7, 2014

Writing the synopsis for the post really stresses me out. I'll wait for someone else. :)

BTW, I was totally bothered by how familiar the actor, Ellen Mattsson, who played "Eva" was to me. I had seen her when she was much younger in the first episode of Wallander, and perhaps I partly recognized her from that; but I'm pretty sure she just looks very much like another actor who's much more prominent. Someone German, maybe?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2014

Hm, she didn't look familiar to me. And I usually have an excellent memory for faces. But since you said German, maybe Franka Potente is who you're thinking about?
posted by travelwithcats at 3:09 PM on September 7, 2014

It's not Potente who I'm reminded of -- I've been familiar with her work since Run Lola Run and The Princess and the Warrior, so I was aware it wasn't her even though I keep thinking it's someone German. It's bugging me. But nothing else Mattsson has done that's listed in the IMDB I've seen, I'm pretty sure, except that Wallander episode.

Just one of those things, I guess. I remember faces and voices quite well, but as the years accumulate, everyone starts to seem familiar. (I'm good with faces except that I'm notorious for not actually really noticing the details, like, oh, eye color. I mean, the eye color of my spouse or other partners. It will be a really bad day if the police ever ask me for a description of someone. But I still recognize and recall them in their totality; I often recognize character actors before other people. Weird.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:20 PM on September 7, 2014

Ha, ha, they miss Leo lying in the road. Stupid 'bots. ‎
What is with 'bots not thinking abt where and when they charge-up? Find an empty single-person bathroom. Lock door. Charge away. 
The lawyer for the nightclub was badass. 

The show lost me utterly after trying to draw a comparison between black people and Hubots. In a show with one black person, one black Hubot, and neither the star of their particular storyline. 

I'd walk out on the vicar, as well. Nor would I ever support Hubot rights in even that fictional world since I'm sure even that world would still not have abolished modern slavery. 

Once again, the show just makes the case for Humans First. ‎

posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:51 PM on September 8, 2014

I have to disagree with your last point. If you consider that human-clone hubots are becoming popular the situation is not as clear cut. Not all hubots are the same, some are more "human" than others.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:11 PM on September 8, 2014

Yeah, I wasn't clear there. The show is making the case for me. I know the writers want me to sympathize with Mimi/Anita and Leo but it's doing the opposite for me. The Hubots are murderers and Leo is clearly unhinged as well as being a murderer.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 4:27 AM on September 9, 2014

Oh, I know you've been talking about your opinion. But my point is that brushing hubots off as stupid machines becomes more difficult if those machines are effectively clones of humans.
Anyway, there's much more blood to come! I just watched S02E01 last night - whoa.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:18 AM on September 9, 2014

Clones are just twins. Memories don't transfer. That much real science I think the show is going with. Did I miss that we've seen any clones?

I think I'm having a harder time suspending my disbelief partly because this show is set in the now. There's too much realism.

I'm watching Extant which has a robot possibly becoming human--or at least acting outside defined parameters--except that its parameters were programmed to be such that it could draw its own conclusions, so still no actual rise to sentience there. It is definitely set in the future, though, and there's some intimation that an alien may have contaminated the robot. I don't buy sentience for the robot there, either, but at least that has a suggestion of something more than just "hey, I removed the injunction against harming humans, loaded a bunch of data and voila, sentience."
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2014

IIRC, the first clone that is introduced is Bea. She is Leo's mother and drowned. Not sure which episode that was. Later on there are more. And there is also more info on memories and the cloning process.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:25 PM on September 9, 2014

"I don't buy sentience for the robot there, either, but at least that has a suggestion of something more than just 'hey, I removed the injunction against harming humans, loaded a bunch of data and voila, sentience.'"

Except your intuition about what is realistic is badly flawed. Forty years of AI research has not even remotely — not even the tiniest bit — managed anything like the complex social interactions and inner life that all these hubots exhibit on this show. The point is, there's every reason to believe that managing that level of intelligence requires sentience. It also requires emotions, at least insofar as low-level, broadly influential imperatives and influences, including those that mimic the endocrine system and its interaction with the brain, because otherwise the hubots wouldn't be anything like humans at all and wouldn't be able to interact with humans as they are depicted.

Almost everything people think they understand about artificial intelligence and human consciousness is wrong, the whole notion that you could have a robot that acts "like" a human intelligence but not be effectively a human intelligence, or that they, or Vulcans, could be intelligent and self-aware but lack "emotions" is just plain wrong; and it's especially wrong to think that this sort of behavior could be "programmed" deterministically like writing a Windows application.

The point being, what's realistic is that the various restrictions are what would be making them less human than they otherwise would be, not that removing them magically makes them human because reasons.

But this is all moot because the show itself quite clearly presents at least Mimi and a few others as being sentient and people in the ways that are essential and if you refuse to accept that, you're refusing to accept the show's premise. Which raises the question as to why you continue watching it. I mean, you don't have to accept the premise as being true or possibly true in real life, just as you don't have to accept faster-than-light travel in most science fiction as being possibly true in real life. In fact, you shouldn't, because it's stupid. But all fictional narratives ask you to accept certain premises as a condition for watching them, that's part of the willing suspension of disbelief.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:40 PM on September 9, 2014

I took Bea to be a hubot with implanted memories. But, ok, "clone." I guess then we're going with the version of cloning that includes memories.

You're right, Ivan. I was giving up on this show (for the second time), but was persuaded to keep going. I have no strong desire to continue watching and shall not as there isn't enough of a solid foundation, in the show, to justify that level of suspension of disbelief.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2014

Oh man....
posted by travelwithcats at 4:07 PM on September 9, 2014

The cloning process is explained further in season two. They record one's voice, facial expressions, gestures and experiences/memories. Furthermore pictures and movie clips are added to the timeline as aide-mémoire. The process also includes a questionnaire with several thousands of questions that the living human has to answer and that are then transferred onto the clone hubot. I think that encapsulates a person quite well.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:53 PM on September 9, 2014

I take it mainly as a way of thinking about various ideas of what identity and personhood might be - the difference between a standard hubot and a clone is that the hubot's personality is mass-produced (and often related to the task they are created for) and the clone's personality is bespoke. What a clone is intended to be is a recording of the personality, which is supposed to be of comfort to a mourning family in some way. David Eischer has co-opted the process to create huboticised people. So, there are four types of hubot: Basic Hubot; Enhanced (Eischerised) Hubot; Clone; Enhanced Clone.

I prefer (and I realise that I'm completely alone in this) to translate the title as Real People rather than Real Humans (the actual translation), because that is at the core of what the series is about - is there a point along the continuum from basic hubot to enhanced clone that the hubot crosses over and becomes a real person? If they're just machines, are we?

It's a more vexed question than it might seem, and what I like is that the writer hasn't just gone "oh, of course they're people, it's just us being bigoted". However scary someone/thing like Rick might be, he's also desperately sad, because he's living in this tiny world, and he can't fully understand the world outside his head. I'm not sure that any of the characters are really bad, however dreadful the things they do might be.

Personally, it's the domestic bits that I find most interesting (how people relate to machines that look just like people; things like the party the supervisor throws for Roger, where she and the other remaining human employee laugh at him drinking out of the ridiculous mug, while the hubots look on, oblivious; that however annoying Vera might be, she's a very effective machine for keeping old people alive), and the fact that as the seasons go on they need to become more and more thriller-y is a bit of a shame (Utopia has the same problem).
posted by Grangousier at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2014

I don't quite follow on the Clone vs. Enhanced Clone distinction. Could you give an example?
posted by travelwithcats at 3:16 PM on September 10, 2014

We've not met a straightforward clone so far, I don't think (although there's one in season 2), but they're constrained by the same rules and regulations that basic hubots are. The distinction between a hubot and a clone* is that a hubot is designed to fulfil a purpose - Flash is a nanny, for example, that's why she's so focused on families; all Odi is designed for is to do what he is told, cheerfully, which he does, even if it involves a chainsaw and a lot of blood - and their personality is developed to the point necessary to allow them to fulfil that purpose. When they're enhanced, those design traits become their personality and govern their behaviour. That is to say, a hubot is a tool, and an enhanced hubot is a self-aware tool.

(Enhanced being the word I'm using for whatever it is that the Eischers (and to a lesser extent Silas) do to the hubots.)

Clones are recordings of a personality, and their purpose isn't to do anything in particular except embody the personality of the deceased person. They're not supposed to be the person, but a sort of perambulatory snapshot - in some ways because they don't have any purpose, any aim, they're less "real" than ordinary hubots. But they do have memories, and can carry on what resembles a conversation. What Eischer's code is intended to do is liberate the clone so that they have free will - supposedly become the person in particular - but it's a lot less simple than he thinks it is, even within the context of the programme. In any case, it seems to be that an enhanced (or Eischered) clone can approach the world in a much more flexible and intelligent way than a normal hubot, because they're not focused on a single purpose.

Eischer is very clever, but his plan is deeply, deeply flawed.

Everyone, human or machine, is fucking up very badly all the time. Or most of the time.

All of this is conjecture, by the way - if I was to put in the appropriate conditionals and qualifications my already tortured prose would become completely unreadable.

*They're all hubots, obviously, but I'm just trying to sort them.
posted by Grangousier at 3:48 PM on September 10, 2014

I realise there's a contradiction in there, but I'm not sure I can tease it out now. It does make sense to me.
posted by Grangousier at 3:52 PM on September 10, 2014

So if I understand you correctly, you see Bea in the enhanced clone category, right?
posted by travelwithcats at 3:53 PM on September 10, 2014

Oh, definitely. I don't know if they've been clear about it yet, but she is essentially Beatrice Eischer, Leo's mother. Or as close as you can get using hubots, radical code and an all-encompassing god-complex, such as David Eischer has.
posted by Grangousier at 3:54 PM on September 10, 2014

Yes, it's clear form the flashbacks that she is Leo's mother. That she drowned and came back as a hubot. Since she is Eischer's wife it just follows that he would use the code on her as well.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:57 PM on September 10, 2014

I think there's one other, but I'm not sure. Actually, now I come to think about it, the resurrection of Beatrice Eischer is a little more complicated than just David, but anyway, that's who she is. It's in the next episode, I think, anyway.

Incidentally, to change the subject slightly (and lower the tone), it's definitely true that the taboo against having sex with hubots would be a lot easier to enforce if they didn't insist on giving them genitals.
posted by Grangousier at 4:03 PM on September 10, 2014

I guess people would "hack" hubots some other way if they came genital-free out of the box. There is also an interesting oral sex scene in season 2....
posted by travelwithcats at 4:09 PM on September 10, 2014

I'm enjoying watching them again, by the way. I watched it the first time in a couple of binges, so it's interesting to take it in at a leisurely pace.
posted by Grangousier at 4:15 PM on September 10, 2014

Me too. I'm currently on S02E03, but always re-watch the current ep prior to posting a thread.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:17 PM on September 10, 2014

I think I like season 2 better so far. But maybe it's just the excitement of something new... :-)
posted by travelwithcats at 4:18 PM on September 10, 2014

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