Channel 4 renews Humans for second series ahead of season finale

Gemma Chan in Humans

Gemma Chan in Humans. The series has tackled questions about the potential dangers of AI.
Photograph: Channel 4

Channel 4 has announced there will be a second series of Humans, its most successful drama in 20 years, ahead of the show’s highly anticipated season finale on Sunday night.

Set in a parallel present, Humans has prompted widespread debate about artificial intelligence. It imagines a world in which we increasingly rely on robots, marketed as high-tech luxury house appliances. As the eight-part drama has progressed, it has wrestled with questions around artificial intelligence and its possible threat to mankind, as well as exploring what it means to be human.

The next instalment the writers said will “take the world forward a little bit and explore the next phase of the technology”.

While cinema has tackled AI countless times, including in recent films Ex Machina and Her, but with the exception of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror the subject is relatively unexplored on the small screen. Yet, as the show’s writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent point out, it is an issue which has increasingly seeped into the public consciousness.

“There has been something in the air for a while now,” said Vincent. “Recently there have been very serious pronouncements by figures such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking about how they see AI as a very real danger and that there are serious problems to be worked out before we make the next advancements.”

Humans’ subject matter has proved popular, with the first episode drawing in a consolidated audience of 6.1 million, making it Channel 4’s highest rated drama since The Camomile Lawn more than 20 years ago. The show has also succeeded in defying the trend of massive audience losses over the course of a season, instead attracting an average of 4.8m viewers per week.

While some developments in AI which are portrayed on screen still feel a while off, society’s increasingly dependent and emotional relationship with technology made audiences very receptive to the ideas and concerns explored in Humans, argues Vincent.

“We have an incredibly intuitive and instinctive interface with most of our consumer technology now, which has really gone leaps and bounds in the past few years,” he said.

“From things like Siri to the fact we even create our personal relationships through technology, with dating apps or using social media, so much so that technology now sits at the centre of our lives and has become ever-easier and more humanlike to use.

“But also this gap has opened up because as it gets more sophisticated, it has also become more unknowable. I think it has created this need in people to think a bit more about their technology.”

Humans was adapted from the 2010 Swedish drama Real Humans, but as the show progressed the storylines departed quite noticeably from the Scandinavian original.

For Brackley, the writers’ decision to allow viewers to make up their own minds about AI and its positive or negative impacts on society has been a key reason why people have kept watching.

“We’ve certainly hinted that AI is something that needs to be discussed, debated and yes, handled carefully,” said Brackley. “But in our world we’ve tried to show as many different stories about synths and their interactions with humans as possible because we never wanted to show this as either a utopia or a dystopia, which a lot of sci-fi stories have done in the past.

“We’d much rather engender the debate in our audience, and have them discussing amongst themselves whether they would get a synth, whether it would be a good idea and whether we want a world where these things existed.”

The pair remain cagey about what viewers can expect from the second season, which begins filming next year and will comprise another eight episodes but promise it will not be a major departure from the current stories and characters.

“Obviously I am treading very carefully here but we do want to take the world forward a little bit and want to see what the next phase of this technology is, that it is moving on and moving forward and is producing news effects, both positive and negative. So we are going to move the status quo of the world forward a little bit,” said Vincent.

“We are going to stick to the things that we loved about the original series when we came to it, the balance of stories between more domestic-based stories and the more thrillery aspect to the show, so are we going to stick to that,” added Brackley.

The initial intrigue in the show has also been credited to a smart advertising campaign by Channel 4, which saw the creation of a fake brand, Persona Synthetics, which advertised the humanoids on television, social media and in shops. David Abraham, Channel 4’s chief executive, recently said the campaign had a “profound effect” and helped bring a large audience to the show.

  • The final episode of Humans will air on Channel 4 on Sunday at 9pm

URL: Channel 4 renews Humans for second series ahead of season finale

Source: Google Alerts for AI