The best series of the season come from an unusual source – Swedish Television, but I should not be that surprised. Scandinavian and specifically Swedish thrillers and political drama series have enjoyed great success in bookshops, on the big screens and more recently on TV. It should have been only a matter of time until the science fiction genre was approached by the Scandinavian producers and directors, the difference is maybe only in the fact that no literary warning arrived sooner (as it was the case with the wave of Scandinavian thrillers), or at least I am not aware about any major writer or book in the genre. And yet Äkta människor (Real Humans) is a very well written, acted and directed series, that throws the viewers in an alternate but possible future of mankind and while telling a compelling story about robots asks questions about humanity, about our relations with the strangers and the different among us, about our values and our feelings.





The biggest writer of robots stories ever, Isaac Asimov introduced in a short story written in 1942 the three laws of robotics, and all his robot stories developed around the logic of these rules and the dangers of breaking them:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Asimov’s laws were written on the assumption that robots will always subordinate to the will of humans. They did not take into consideration that there may be a Law Zero, which conditions the actions of robots by the same entity that drives human actions – the thing we call soul or human conscience.  The close future created by Lars Lundstrom is supposed to follow the laws of Asimov, with humanoid robots very close to the shape of humans but still serving the humans in many different ways, from housekeeping and health care to being their sex toys. Then the anomaly happens and a piece of code (what else!) is written by a man who is so desperate not to let his son die that he creates a way to allow the merging of the best in Man and Machine, making the humans more robust and less prone to diseases, aging and physical decay, giving machines the capability to learn human feelings and pain. The human robots (or hubots – expect this new noun to enter quickly many languages) may know better what is good for individuals and for all mankind, the problem is that there is no way to do the good they are programmed for without infringing on Asimov’s laws. To do good they must survive, to survive they must protect their existence, to protect their existence they must sometimes disobey or even harm these humans who are on the side of evil.


(video source SVT)


The first season of Real Humans follows a handful of independent hubots in their fight for emancipation. They face a group of humans composed of a few more of less dysfunctional families, policemen and government agents with their  personal problems, and with their prejudices. The resulting conflict has elements of thriller, horror story, family and judicial dramas, romance and government conspiracies. The relations between men and hubots have multiple dimensions – love and fear, prejudice and ignorance about strangers, faith and sexuality, and none of these is being expedited, and very little is stereotyped in this complex and smartly written story. The characters are each of them distinct and well constructed, the viewers come soon to know, understand, sympathize or fear them. The end of the first season leaves enough paths open and enough characters alive (or not recycled)  for us to look in expectation for the coming seasons, and with some apprehension to the remakes that cannot be also to late to come. One thing I am sure – although his laws are challenged or even reversed in the story that these series are based, Isaac Asimov would have loved it!