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In Extinction synths and humans appear to have no trouble distinguishing each other nearly instantaneously.

E.g., during the War of Decommissioning they could make shoot/no-shoot decisions even when they (at least many humans) did not have distinct military apparel.

Is there any indication as to how this distinction was possible?

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How do synths and humans differentiate in Extinction?

Their fashion and clothing!

If you look at how synths are dressed before/during the War of Decommissioning, they're all wearing very basic clothing (i.e., simple fabrics, no design/patterns) and their hairstyles are something from the 40's and 50's.

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Synths just before the War of Decommissioning.

If you then look at how humans were dressed, they wore much more modern clothing and hairstyles, something akin to how people are today. Although humans aren't really shown throughout the film, we do later find out that the synths took the homes of the humans after the war, and, as a result, started wearing their clothing and taking on their hobbies (e.g., Alice starting to paint).

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Synths wearing human clothing after the war.

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Alice when first entering her new home after the war.

enter image description here Alice painting, waiting for Peter to come home from work.

Another element that strongly evidences this is Peter's pocket knife. At the beginning of the film we see him pick it up when first dressing for the day, and then later when he realizes that he's really a synth, we see a flashback of Peter, Alice, and the two girls first entering their home and Peter picking up the pocket knife.

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When Peter leaves Miles (the young human boy) near the end of the film, he hands Miles the knife and says:

PETER: You know what, here. It was never mine to begin with, but thank you.

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Peter handing Miles the pocket knife, along with Peter wearing the watch that wasn't his to begin with.

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  • This is a good point to mention, they're styles of cloths may be one of the 'tells' However...wouldn't your basic hipster ruin the hypothesis? This particular tell, is something for keen eye audience members to recognize the difference. Much like how bruce willis never changes his cloths in 'the six sense' should one notice, this styling is in my opinion solely for the audience, and not a distinctive method of telling the difference between humans and synths for the citizens of the film. Jun 4, 2019 at 0:01
  • @morbo With synths being portrayed as "below" humans, I doubt anyone would be inclined to dress like a synth.
    – Charles
    Jun 4, 2019 at 0:05
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This is never outright explained within the film, and really it's unimportant to the story.

The synthetics appear to know and recognize each other as synths prior to their memory wipes. Because of this inversely, any 'human' who's trying to kill you is probably a synth.

The other explanation is likely that humans are simply aware of who the synths are. They are built machines after all. Everyone is likely aware who is a synth or not simply because they are products placed in specific roles within society.

Of course that may only explain away the very beginning of the W.o.D. Before confusion and disaster eventually set in... it's likely as the war continued, humans created tools to visibly tell the difference.

But it's never depicted of synths pretending to be humans either. There were no terminators attempting to infiltrate the humans that we know of and as such, we never learn how hard it is to tell the difference between them.

We only learn from the solider that the generations later from Mars learn everything about them for their upcoming 'invasion', and also know the difference.

However for us, as such it appears you can just.... tell.

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  • But it is important to the story, and it is [indirectly] explained and shown!
    – Charles
    Jun 3, 2019 at 23:40
  • It's not important to the story at all. We the viewer arn't supposed to be able to tell directly. Because that'd ruin the point of the twist. It's never ever shown once that it was important for the characters to know the difference between humans and synths prior to the War, because everyone knew already. Jun 3, 2019 at 23:58
  • Humans are barely shown throughout the film; only at the very beginning and even then quite briefly. It's important to the plot of the film because that's how the synths were able to convince themselves that they were human (i.e., forget that they were synths). They literally adopted the clothing, hobbies, jobs and lifestyles of humans. If they didn't then there'd be a huge disparity of housing, jobs, buildings, etc., and they'd begin to wonder how it all got there.
    – Charles
    Jun 4, 2019 at 0:07
  • They had their minds reprogrammed and they have the same shape as humans...that makes assimilation of human things easy. However, it was a decision made to wipe the synths minds and lives/families forced (given?) upon them...they were literally reprogrammed to replace humans....programming that started to fail for some, hence why they had facilities set up to reprogram them....they most certainly didn't convince themselves. Jun 4, 2019 at 0:11
  • The memory wipe is only one aspect of the synths adopting the human lifestyle. And I was using convince in a loose way, closer to maintaining a facade.
    – Charles
    Jun 4, 2019 at 0:16

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