Among the six shows out this season that I thought were worth watching (there's probably more than that: this is a good season), is Plastic Memories. I think I'm going to stop watching it, because of its central conceit.
Now, like most anime about robots, the four-year lifespans and centrality of memory should be pretty familiar, because they are of course borrowed from Blade Runner. All anime with robots in them are riffs on Blade Runner; this is not unoriginality, any more than jazz is, because the fun of both is in seeing what this particular person will do with their riffs. You can get things as disparate as Naomi Armitage and Dorothy Wainwright out of that well.
But the thing is, the replicants' four-year lifespan was engineered in, to keep them from accumulating enough experience to question their lot (although then implanting memories derived from humans' experiences more or less neuters that; I think the plot-hole was present in the book too—been a while since I read it—and it's best not to apply non-schizophrenic logic to a Phil Dick story). You wouldn't build AIs like that without it being intentional; if your AI has a four-year lifespan, keep working on it. (I will allow "rampancy" in Bungie games because those are "neural clones", and the emulation is unstable, which emulators often are.)
The Giftias in Plastic Memories, though, have a four-year lifespan because apparently their designers said "Aeh, close enough." Who would design a product like that? How would you go about incorporating them into people's lives (they gloss over whether Giftias are sold, or what) without someone pointing out it's practically emotional abuse to let them get attached to someone who can never live longer than four years without turning into a monster? Who would view the people who come to "retrieve" Giftias as anything other than Dr. Deaths propping up a callous, monstrously incompetent system?
Understand, I don't think that Plastic Memories has a pro-euthanasia agenda, or anything—indeed, I think its plot is slightly tone-deaf for a society with Japan's demographics, in a way that no competent person advocating such a policy would be. I think that the people behind it just wanted to make a show about people whose job is "retiring" obsolete robots and how they angst about it.
But that's not how you do science fiction, not if you're an adult. The premise of Plastic Memories is impossible, because nobody would leave an AI with that flaw, or mass-market them if for some reason the flaw wasn't fixable. There might be a slave-caste of four-year-lifespan androids for certain specialized tasks, but nobody else would ever see one unless they were dealing with the applications where androids are actually an advantage over humans. You could get quite a bit of interesting television out of that, but it wouldn't really work as a slice-of-life show with a slight romance angle. (It could give you "Lifetime movie cancer-patient" romance, coupled with lots of drama RE: the applications where a four-year lifespan for an employee is not a liability or is even an asset, but that would be a very different show from Plastic Memories.)
And that brings me to my point: the setting of Plastic Memories is not being treated as a world: it's being treated as stage-dressing.
The ane-ue, since I accidentally got her
The writers, in the third season, nerfed Starscream. They had him do stupid things like try to use brute force against Predacons (and forget that an ornithopter might as well be walking, if it has to keep pace with a jet), and let him be bullied by Miko, and somehow be able to be shaken up by jostling that a human being (which is not, to my knowledge, designed to take re-entry or multi-G turns, unlike a Seeker) had been just fine in. Why? Well, partly because they thought Stephen Blum made funny noises as "freaked out Starscream". But also because they were moving the plot from Point A to Point B, and needed to spotlight Miko as if she was a relatable character (rather than a future serial killer), and needed to have the Wreckers live up to their till-then somewhat hollow chest-thumping. (Not only was Starscream nerfed so Wheeljack could seem smart—that whole tracking-device debacle was Ender's Game levels of "we made everyone else stupid rather than come up with a decent plan for the hero"—but Soundwave was, too. And Soundwave's courtesy title, which properly precedes his name whenever used, is actually "Excellent work", even in the Bayverse let alone the Aligned continuity.)
They deliberately made Starscream small and sleek in this version, so he would have to use his wits—and then in the third season he becomes a witless moron. They let Soundwave, who is a communications device and has the Nemesis' ground-bridge slaved directly to his nervous system, so he can bridge people basically by flexing a muscle, get trapped between two ground-bridges (if the proximity of the two vortices holds them open, that needs to be stated—again, when it comes to technologies and phenomena you made up, "if you didn't say it, it didn't happen"...and that doesn't explain why Soundwave didn't just immediately bridge himself back again, with his sensors he'd figure out what was going on in a tenth the time it took Ratchet).
I realize that the final season was rushed, and they probably had to shoehorn the Predacons in. But that is my point: they were doing shoddy work, however good their excuse. (Besides, they did the same "this guy's totally evil, never mind we never really showed you that" thing with Breakdown, and that was in the second season.) It is shoddy work to treat a character as a counter on a game-board. It is shoddy work to treat a setting as stage-dressing. Why on Earth would Starscream, of all people, try to browbeat Predaking, who he knows is stronger than him? It's true he's a petty borderline-psychopath who loves power-trips: but he only trips on power he's got. He might very well zoom off, and proceed to pelt Predaking with missiles from "over-the-horizon" range (the only thing keeping him from doing that to Megatron—they've got cameras on missiles, so he wouldn't even miss the look on his face—is his huge mental block where Megatron is concerned), and then zoom back in to gloat, once Predaking was bludgeoned by concussion-effects and possibly glowing red-hot around the edges. It'd even make sense for him to do that, miscalculate, and get trounced by a Predaking who was less missiled-into-submission than Starscream thought. But hit it with a stick? Why the hell would he do that? Do Cybertronians even think of "random cylindrical bit of debris" as being a bludgeoning-instrument? Tool use actually appears to be genuinely secondary to their mindset, since their anatomy changes to accommodate their tasks.
I realize this impulse, to treat characters as props and settings as stage-dressing, has always been with us. "You'd only build a ship like the Nostromo if you knew it'd be the setting of a horror-movie." But I really think it's gotten worse lately. I don't know if it's the success of Game of Thrones (where the characters exist only to set up the "twists" and the torture-porn—and the regular kind), or ideology (certainly Miko—who, with her total lack of fear around thirty-foot metal Nazis, is the person Goren meant when he said "...Tweak the upbringing another way, [people like that] become psychopaths"—is probably an unusually virulent strain of the stupid version of "strong female character"), but writers seem to care less about character than they used to, even as recently as 2010 or so. (It'd be ironic if the animus against "Mary Sues", where everything works out okay for your character, were involved, given that Miko could basically have been created to be an example of a Mary Sue, and all.)
I think it might be a combination of factors; Whedon and Martin between them being praised for "torturing" their characters, only sometimes figuratively, for example, is almost certainly one—since valuing that kind of thing encourages treating characters as tokens on a game-board, and settings as the spaces they move around on. Certainly nobody who cares about worldbuilding in a work of speculative fiction can like Firefly or ASoIaF, since neither of those settings makes sense for ten consecutive minutes. Another might be the changing nature of media, between the diminishing returns for various kinds of producers and the way social media's affected "word of mouth", fiction-producers might be reacting with something akin to what's known in online media as "clickbait"—with more shallow "twists" and more spotlight on characters or character-traits the "community" likes, rather than on what actually serves the actual story in question. But is there any factor that makes this not bad work, even if it's bad work with an excuse? I'm thinking long and hard and can't find one.