The new Electric Dreams scifi anthology series has debuted on Amazon, and among the episodes is an intriguing post-apocalyptic adventure called “Autofac.” It’s the second episode of the series (Episode 8 on Channel 4), and it’s pretty much scifi at its best. But some viewers might finish the episode and need an explanation about just how some of those twists and turns worked, and exactly what conclusion we were left with at the end. Yes, the episode can get a little confusing at times. So this post will unpack it and explain the most important twists. This article will, of course, have spoilers for Electric Dreams Autofac. Only continue reading if you’ve already seen the episode.
First, yes, this episode did take place in a post-apocalyptic world. Humanity had a big war, and everything was destroyed except for massive factories that were powered by artificial intelligence. This factory AI creation was called Autofac. And yes, Autofac was still running automatically, still powered by AI, polluting the world and creating items that no one needed. It believed its mission was to support humanity and provide for us.
The big twist that we learn at the end is that humanity did not survive the war. As Alice quickly explained to Emily, humanity had gone extinct shortly after the war ended. In order to try to continue its mission, Autofac then created its own version of humans. Each human was modeled after someone who truly existed, just like Alice was modeled after a VR engineer at Autofac. And all around the world, small communities of identical clone androids existed so they could continue to consume Autofac’s products. They were not self aware and did not know that they were androids. Yes, this means that everyone was a robot clone, even Connor and Emily. (If Connor looks familiar, it’s because he played Sebastian Monroe on another post-apocalyptic show, Revolution.)
But there was a bug with Emily’s particular group. They rebelled — which they are not supposed to do. So when Alice answered Emily’s customer service question, she was not going to help them. She was going to explore if they truly had an error and, if so, she was going to simply have them destroyed and replaced with new androids/robot human clones.
Emily, however, didn’t end up reprogramming Alice like she told Connor and the others that she had. Instead, they made a deal that Alice would let them into the factory in exchange for Emily not blanking her “mind.” And Alice, all along, had a plan to lure Emily in so she could study what was wrong with her, identify the error, and correct it. But Emily planned for Alice to do this. Alice appeared one step ahead of Emily, but Emily was actually one step ahead of her.
This is because Emily is the only one who became truly self aware and realized that she was a robot. The factory programmed in filters to prevent the robot humans from realizing this, but Emily was able to push past that programming to see who she really was. Most of the human robots just see blood when they’re hurt because of a filter. But Emily saw her robot brain; she saw her true self. Armed with this knowledge, she devised a plan.
Emily let Alice think she was being lured into the factory, but that’s what she wanted. Years ago, she planted a virus inside her programming so she’d be ready for this day. And when Alice was studying Emily’s code, Emily was planting a virus into the factory’s systems. She succeeded in shutting down the factory and preventing them from killing her community and replacing them all with new robots.
Emily first came to the realization of who she truly was when she found a Wired magazine on one of her outings. This is why she was so secretive about the Wired magazine and wouldn’t let anyone see it. Inside the magazine was a picture of the person that she was modeled after:
Every single “robot human” is modeled after someone. Emily was modeled after Emily Zabriskie, the creator and founder of Autofac and the artificial intelligence that runs it. The flaw in the Autofac’s creation is that sometimes the minds they are modeled after somehow seep into the robots’ consciousness. In Emily’s dreams, she was seeing memories of how her original self had died — in a nuclear explosion, watching the plant she created destroyed. Her original self’s genius and knowledge of AI also seeped through to a degree, allowing Emily to achieve that self awareness that let her take down Autofac.
After destroying the factory, Emily returned to live out a “normal” life. We’re left with a few questions. First, is she going to reveal to the community who they really are? And did she destroy all the factories through a virus that’s spreading, or just Autofac? And won’t they need Autofac at some point to fix issues that may come up in the future? Ultimately we’re left with a few small questions, but the major ones are answered in a compelling and satisfying post-apocalyptic story.