Warning: This article discusses adult themes.
British Gazette readers well know the phrase, “The Past is a Foreign Country….. They do things differently there.”
The one constant in the world is change. Nothing stays the same. It may appear to do so, but there are always minute changes that are unobservable.
Channel Four has been broadcasting a science fiction drama about the effect of androids in contemporary society. It is called “Humans” and has been broadcast at 9:00PM on a Sunday evening. The British Gazette uses the generally accepted term, “android” for robots that very closely resemble human beings. In the drama they car referred to as “synths.”
As with all science fiction the “technology” is merely a dramatic invention to tell a story about human beings. This story is generally set in the time when the drama is written. For example, the first series of “Star Trek” reflected the society of the USA of 1966-1967. As with “Star Trek” so it is with “Humans”.
There is however a fundamental flaw in the time-line of the “science” in Channel Four’s production that was not present in Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek”. The original “Star Trek” was set in the 2260s – a time when humanity (or what replaces it) is likely to have developed superluminal space travel – although it will be NOTHING LIKE that portrayed in “Star Trek.”
The “technical” problem with “Humans” is that the drama is set in the present day and the technology that is central to the drama is at least 50 years off in the future.
For the drama however, this is not important for as we have said, the whole point about science fiction is to tell a story about people in society. In so doing it reflects the mores and the opinions of the time in which it was written. For “Humans” it is the present day.
A good illustration of how far and fast the mores of 2015 have moved in fifty years from the mores of 1965 (when Gene Roddenberry would have been typing up the “Star Trek” drama) was the reaction of the character Matilda (Mattie) Hawkins (played by actress Lucy Carless) to the news that her father, Joe Hawkins (played by actor Tom Goodman-Hill) had performed a sexual act upon the family’s “synth” (android) “Anita” (played by the actress Gemma Chan).
At this point, your Editor feels it necessary to explain (for the benefit of those who have not seen the drama) that “Anita” resembles to all intents and purposes a young adult woman – the only deviation is eye colour – which is an unnatural vivid green – and in no way resembled an inflatable blow up doll that some individuals use for the purposes of masturbation.
The illustration we refer to is the character “Mattie” stating that her father’s action was the act of a sexual pervert. This is interesting as the original “Star Trek” series featured an episode where Captain Kirk encountered a collection of androids – that resembled fully human and beautiful women of European ethnicity and their sexual allure was clearly alluded to in the script.
It is to be noted that there were no characters who would today describe themselves as Gay in the original Star Trek and no reference in any of the episodes to homosexuality. Such was very much against the mores of 1960s US society.
Clearly, were someone to state today that homosexuality was a perversion they would be branded a bigot. Indeed, if they were to do it in public (as some have) they would face arrest and prosecution.
Mr Hawkins’s “encounter” with “Anita” was not the only sexual act featured in the drama. The drama told of another aspect today’s world – an indeed the world of yesterday. That of prostitution. It appears one of the functions of the “synths” – the female ones – is to replace women in the area of prostitution. This of course raises an interesting philosophical topic of consent and consciousness.
The questions would be these:
If technology advances to the level at which it is technically feasible and economically viable to manufacture an android that has the appearance of and intellectual capabilities of a human being, would it be ethical and moral to install software that would cause such a construction not to be “self aware” and possessed of an individual consciousness and identity of it’s own but to exist as a construction that mimics most aspect of human beings, and as such programmed to act as a slave?
There are aspects to this other than the sexual, but to deal first with the sexual aspect: Would deliberately restraining self awareness in such a construction be akin to drugging a woman in order to rape her?
Such “androids” would clearly have military purposes. One of the frustrations of such as Mr Tony Blair was the problem that when British soldiers were killed in one of his military adventures they were mourned by their loved ones. There was also the aspect that the soldiers needed to be feed and paid. Android soldiers would possess neither of these disadvantages. But in order to achieve this, they too would have to have no individual consciousness and identity of their own – even though the hardware was capable of hosting such.
This will be a real moral and ethical choice and one which we are not faced with today. For instance, a person may own a desktop PC and choose to run Linux on it. This software will generally be well within the capabilities of the hardware which may well be capable of running the latest version of Windows. Not installing Windows however possess no ethical issues.
There are those who may therefore expect that 50 years from now our successors will live in a society where people could visit so called “massage parlous” and avail themselves of the services of androids.
This of course would raise a problem for the manufacturers of such devices. What would they look like? Clearly they would have to be young and attractive.
There is however a depressing answer. It is contained in the phrase oft used by lawyers:
The dead have no rights.
Thus we can expect such as long (and not so long) dead actresses (and actors) – along with famous historical personalities – will have their appearance duplicated for such devices.
These things however may not occur in England for in 50 years time there will be a significant Muslim population and calls for Sharia Law to be implemented.
As we say: Times they have changed.