Interview with Marshall Allman for Humans
Were you a fan of S1?
It had just come out here in the States when I got the opportunity to be in it, so I watched it and was blown away by the sheer quality of the whole thing. I was thrilled with how relatable they made the onset of the singularity and how non-James Cameron it was. It wasn’t this apocalyptic battle between humans and robots. It was extremely inviting, but there was a depth of knowledge behind it. I’d heard a lot of the ideas before, but the context made me consider them in a new way. And the synths were so incredible, I was flabbergasted – I did some research into how this behaviour was achieved.
How did you find it, working opposite people playing synths?
It was a little strange. There’s a certain level of objectification. You have to speak to Siri in a certain way on an iPhone for her to know what you’re asking, and it can become so mechanical that it sounds derogatory, so doing that to a human, even one who’s playing a synth, took some getting used to. I wanted to be nicer to them!
Who is Milo Khoury?
He’s a really interesting character. The opportunity to play someone so powerful and wealthy and enthusiastic about his vision was really exciting, so I read up on Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, to find out how these people tick, what makes them normal. I didn’t want Milo to be some maniacal visionary, I wanted him to be a real, relatable person.
Did you draw on any of the characteristics of those real tech moguls to play him?
No, because you never see these guys in their private conversations or casual moments. They’re not necessarily known for their charm or guile, and Milo felt quite different to that.
Milo seems confident to the point of arrogance. It’s hard to imagine he’s ever failed. Does he ever doubt himself?
That’s the fun part of someone like Milo – there’s no doubt about where they’re headed, but it can be their fatal flaw: the tunnel vision can mean you miss things. It really got me thinking about the burden and responsibility of power, and how you need to incorporate every perspective. Most people like this start out 1000% altruistic, and then money comes into it. When you have something that meets a need in the world, money is a natural by-product.
But what’s the fallout with Athena [Carrie-Anne Moss]?
It’s pretty serious. Milo’s at the height of commerce, Athena’s at the height of innovation and true altruism. Where they clash is on whether you can be altruistic and make money at the same time.
Carrie-Anne Moss said you briefed her on the latest technology out there. Are you quite tech savvy?
Yes and no. Steve Jobs’ whole thing was about integrating technology into your life, so I’m totally fascinated by technology that can become second nature and make my life easier. And I had an excuse to do all this research – it was my job to be up on what’s going on out there. I love progress and innovation, passion and craft, ideas that inspire, especially if they better the world.
What are the implications of these advances in AI?
It was so exciting to get up to speed on where everything is, and I’m still barely scratching the surface. It’s moving so quickly, it’s incredible, but also scary. We’re almost giving up the control of life. Think about the self-driving car. If it’s visually hooked up to a payment account like BitCoin, can drive itself to get repairs and work for Uber, that’s a job in itself! I think we’re a long way from the singularity, but not so far from recreating consciousness. I read The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos and a couple of articles by Steven Pinker which helped me get my head around it and not be so scared about it.
Would you want to own a synth?
Hmm, that’s really tough. After watching Humans, no! But when I see how messy my place gets with my three kids and I can’t afford an assistant, maybe I would… You’d have to have serious boundaries in place – I’d hate to even speak to a synth in the wrong way, or take out my frustrations on it. But that’s what I love about the show, it doesn’t give you any answers, it just raises more questions.
Is there a personal angle to all this for Milo?
One of the themes that’s prominent in the show is how the synths bring out people’s emotions and trauma. It’s impossible not to project your own brokenness onto synths. People do that with dogs, so how much more would they do it with something that’s almost human? It’s almost impossible to take the man out of the work, his identity out of what he does.