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Äkta människor - Real Humans [TV series review; spoiler alert]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Äkta människor - Real Humans [TV series review; spoiler alert]; published February 19, 2014, 17:45; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=2813.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571393731, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Äkta människor - Real Humans [TV series review; spoiler alert]}}, month = {February},year = {2014}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=2813}}


The Real Humans TV series is a Swedish production that follows and highlights the existences if not lives of some normal people, of one person with a "bionic" brain implant to enhance his mental functions (see 'human enhancement'), of a few robots that are very human-like but yet restricted in what they can do, and of a few other robots that have achieved a rather far reaching likeness to humans through hacks or modified software that also is considered illegal. To complicate matters further, the story plot contains violence, it contains robot viruses that infects them and renders them dangerous and unpredictable and it contains digital clones - robots that contain parts of the brain content of real people, and that mimic these real people to a degree - alongside with real people that at times dress and act as robots, as well as real people that prefer to have (deviant) sex with robots rather than with humans. The series is brimming with variations under the "people versus robot" theme.

With that, the TV series itself is one hell of an incredible watch.

It is far better than Dexter, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad and Homeland in conjunction - in other words, this series is one hot mess. What and who is good and bad switches constantly. But that aside, a few points are touched that also cover the area of prosthetic arms, possibly of "bionic" or also human like parts.

For those that will not want to wait, Amazon France has both seasons already ready to order, on Bluray with Swedish and French audio and French subtitles, to be shipped after May 2014:

Also (below), spoiler alert. You have been warned. Images Copyright (C) SVT Swedish Television.

Odi and Vera

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The senior gentlemen Lennart has a household robot, Odi, who seems to be the entrepreneurial and cheerful type not bored by daily routine and who gladly helps Lennart build model ships, go fishing, make Lasagna and serves wine. Odi is an older robot model with some cruder aspects but Lennart has grown very fond of him and so one day, Odi malfunctions and later, Odi is revamped and sold off. He is replaced with a far more sophisticated model, Vera, a household robot for seniors that can perform CPR. And yet, Lennart always looks back to the good old days with Odi.

What we can derive from this, or, what is being illustrated here:

  • If a robot-like machine actually performs and does what we want it to do, we may become fond of them.
  • If a robot-like machine actually performs and we become fond of them, more sophisticated apparatuses do not necessarily have the capacity to take over, or, to step in.
  • It is not the multitude of functions no one needs. It is the few things that actually matter that make the difference.

 Virus infected robots

If any of these robots starts to crap out, they are being recycled. There is no role for robots that malfunction or that become unreliable.

In fact, the TV series almost goes out of its way to visualize just how disturbing a malfunctioning robot is, that suddenly stops being that ideal surface we can use to project our desires and hopes on. Which is what they really are.

The same happens when a very highly hyped "bionic" hand malfunctions. It is a massive turn off. That product has no role. It ceases to have any reason to exist. It will be dropped like a hot potato.

What we learn, or, what is being illustrated here:

  • Malfunctioning or unreliable "bionic" parts have absolutely no role in everyday life.
  • It is perfectly OK to disregard, ignore, drop, shed, sell, trash or retire malfunctioning or unreliable "bionic" parts.

What it means to be human

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The TV series contains a court tribunal where it is being established that very advanced and sophisticated robots that contain illegal modifications can be registered and then treated as humans. That is very favorable or so it seems. However the downside of that is that they also become truly responsible for their actions and their consequences, and that may be hard to bear.

This also applies to a prosthetic hand. Once a prosthetic arm or hand is sold as "real" and "life like", the product will be rightfully evaluated under that assumption. To protect a prosthetic hand from being exposed to harsh usage and analysis, to harsh reviews and opinions, it would be wise to take a distance from wording its advertising as "real" and "life like" - instead, these should be declared as "delicate and brittle attempts to build a prosthetic that only fulfills minimal aspects of a real hand". That is the corollary to the TV series.

Conversely, no one that I know of will look down on a hook being a hook. The artificial, mechanic and simulacra-like nature of the hook is not hidden, it is extremely apparent. There are no empty promises as the hook never tries to be "human", or "bionic".

What the TV series shows us here in an illustrative manner is that:

  • In the domain of "bionic" products and attempts, declaring (increasing) "life like"-ness, declaring increasing "bionic" nature of the product, will rightfully cause the users to impose real life requirements. If these expectations are not met, it is then in order to apply very harsh criticism.

Hacked robots versus standard issue robots

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Robots are restricted to operate within safety limits in the world of Akta manniskor. Conversely, hacked robots with rogue software are portrayed as being superbly powerful in terms of mimicking or even surpassing human nature in behavioral aspects. They also exhibit psychological problems, turmoil, difficult ambivalences and suffering.

This TV series suggests or illustrates a number of issues here:

  • Protecting users through restrictions - Asimov laws, et cetera - are no guarantee for users being happy with a particular robot system.
  • Advanced systems can be demanding to no end without getting the user any further. Really, to make personal advances, the user needs a reliable tool at hand, not a human nature sized problem cake.
  • Cost is a real issue. Who can afford what, and what does it really do in the end.
  • The more advanced the robot is, the more dependent on really hairy issues you get, the more complex or intractable hard problems are. One then depends on an increasingly small number of specialists to solve the problem. Actually, the expectation- to be less dependent - is not at all fulfilled, rather, realities are shifted to create new business opportunities.

Summary of TV series derived points to consider for prosthetic arms and hands

Summing up, I copied all above made listed points to go over them again.

It should be understandable that very reliable, comfortable and easy to maintain robot parts win over complex stuff that provides less payload, performs less and still requires attention:

  • If a robot-like machine actually performs and does what we want it to do, we may become fond of them.
  • If a robot-like machine actually performs and we become fond of them, more sophisticated apparatuses do not necessarily have the capacity to take over, or, to step in.
  • It is not the multitude of functions no one needs. It is the few things that actually matter that make the difference.

The advertising terms used by "bionic" hand manufacturers is not working in their favor:

  • In the domain of "bionic" products and attempts, declaring (increasing) "life like"-ness, declaring increasing "bionic" nature of the product, will rightfully cause the users to impose real life requirements (such as trying to bake a cake). If these expectations are not met, it is ttrying to bake a cakehen in order to apply very harsh criticism.
  • Malfunctioning or unreliable "bionic" parts have absolutely no role in everyday life.

Why prosthetic arms are dropped and left unused:

  • It is perfectly OK to disregard, ignore, drop, shed, sell, trash or retire malfunctioning or unreliable "bionic" parts.
  • Protecting users through restrictions - Asimov laws, et cetera - are no guarantee for users being happy with a particular robot system.

In fact, very advanced "bionic" hands cause problems also mirror the problems apparent in this TV series' script:

  • Advanced systems can be demanding to no end without getting the user any further. Really, to make personal advances, the user needs a reliable tool at hand, not a human nature sized problem cake.
  • Cost is a real issue. Who can afford what, and what does it really do in the end.
  • The more advanced the robot is, the more dependent on really hairy issues you get, the more complex or intractable hard problems are. One then depends on an increasingly small number of specialists to solve the problem. Actually, the expectation- to be less dependent - is not at all fulfilled, rather, realities are shifted to create new business opportunities.

 

A lot of this is reflected in every day life

Today, I tried to wear the i-Limb ultra revolution before leaving the house. Then I tried to grab my water bottle. Instead of opening the hand as I signalled it to do, the hand closed several times. When I finally managed to get it to open and close according to my intention, it would wrap around the bottle and each and every time when I tried to lift the bottle, the hand would open again - just a bit, a minute bit it would open. It would just open a tiny bit, so the grip would be lost and the bottle would slip. Really, I gave up. What a glorious piece of trash this turned out to be for me today, really. I removed the i-Limb prosthetic and left it there. It was a big relief to not wear a piece of disobedient junk, too.

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