Black Mirror is the nightmarish brainchild of British humorist, critic, author, screenwriter, producer, and presenter Charlie Brooker. The purpose of this immensely popular anthology series is to provide a cutting, deeply observant commentary on the creeping influence of technology on human life. With the recent success of the interactive film ‘Bandersnatch’ that aired on Netflix at the end of 2018, and the 6 Emmy’s the show has earned to date, the show is gaining widespread acknowledgement and recognition. I personally love Black Mirror and find its forays into the potential consequences of human moral frailty, when combined with technology that is advancing and developing too rapidly for humans to fully comprehend the impact, both terrifying and insanely interesting. However, to me, Black Mirror is becoming increasingly terrifying as the years go on. It seems that while the genre of dystopian fiction once served as a warning to humankind about the potentially disastrous consequences of their actions, as we move towards a world in which the evolution of technology, the ever-changing political climate and the range of social issues that have been raised are scarily reminiscent of dystopian prophecy, it seems merely putting out a warning is not enough to prevent things from getting any worse. Here are some of the ways in which Charlie Brooker has essentially predicted the grim direction we are heading in, just to make us all feel that bit worse about the world 🙂 (SPOILER ALERT!!!)
The First Episode…
I’m not going into detail here, but for those who have seen the show’s pilot episode The National Anthem and are also familiar with rumours surrounding David Cameron’s university experience, you know what I’m getting at.
Charging your phone with your body?
The Season 1 episode 15 Million Merits shows a world in which occupants are being bombarded with advertising that controls their lives. Hmm… The episode also has the characters pedalling on digital bikes all day every day to generate energy, that powers the screens that suffocate them. The bike technology is already being implemented in Brazilian prisons as a way to cheaply generate power, and furthermore, researchers are investigating a stamp-sized sticker that can be placed on the human body that relies on movement to generate electricity. There are some efficiency issues as the device currently only converts 0.6% of energy into actually useable electricity, however the concept is being further developed.
In the episode ‘The Entire History of You’ people are able to record and playback every moment of their lives using an implant. This concept, in true Black Mirror fashion, is twisted into a masochistic way one can uncover signs of infidelity in marrriage. Great. This is becoming eerily more likely, as Samsung begins developing a contact lens- esque device that could display data directly onto the eyes, send a constant live stream to your phone and take photos when you wink. Also, there’s Kapture, a wristband-based recording device that allows you to replay anything you’ve recently experienced, as it is always recording and has a speaker for immediate playback. That device sounds to me like an absolute data protection nightmare, but apparently its a thing now so that’s always encouraging.
Digitally replicating dead people…?
In the episode Be Right Back, a recently widowed woman turns to a new company that can essentially digitalise her deceased husband using his online activity to accurately mimic his personality. Marius Ursache, the man behind the virtual avatar creation tool Eternime, wants to mine data to “extract personality traits” and “train” avatars with memories, biographical data, and opinions, essentially creating a digital version of you using your data. A similar project is underway over at ETER9, a social media network that allows users to “eternalize” their social media presence. They hope that after you die your Digital Counterpart, created using previous social media activity, will continue to post and interact with your friends.
Where’s Waldo? Nevermind.
The politically loaded Season 2 episode The Waldo Moment concerns a bright blue, crude, uneducated cartoon that runs for office then somehow gets in and as he lacks very little/ no political experience whatsoever, the world begins to descent into dystopia. While our current equivalent is less blue more orange, the thematic similarities between the episode and the current political situation across the pond are increasingly unsettling.
The Bees Are Dying!!
It’s no secret that humans basically suck and that we are killing the bees. The Black Mirror solution to this was to create masses and masses of digital bees that perform the same function as the living ones, though of course as its Black Mirror, the technology is used to mass murder a whole bunch of people. And guess what!! They actually exist. Researchers at Harvard are currently developing a whole host of bots that essentially will do the exact same thing as the ‘bees’ in the episode. While this tech is undoubtedly very impressive, maybe we should spend less time on creepy robot fill-ins, and more on the dwindling real-life version. Maybe?
The newest season featured a particularly unsettling episode called ‘Crocodile’ in which a central part of the plot revolves around a driverless pizza truck. Turns out, Pizza Hut is attempting to develop a similar transport system by 2020, using self-driving vehicles. It might be ok though, as Pizza Hut want to still put a person in the van so they can still actually deliver the pizza to your door, and while that’s all good and well, it seems kind of redundant to make the car drive itself if there’s a person chilling inside it either way.
Chinese Social Credit Scores:
While I have been semi-comedic about the rest of the predictions, this particular one could have seriously detrimental effects on the wellbeing of an entire country and is very much a real, imminent, and frightening concept. Black Mirror Season 3 starts out with Nosedive, the harrowing tale of Lacie and her endless quest for social media acceptance in a world where her entire life is judged by public ratings. Everything from her job to her apartment prospects is judged on an Uber-like star-based system and the lower ones score is, the fewer prospects and the less respect, acceptance and opportunity one receives. People who go below a certain number are also punished or imprisoned. While this appears a horrific dystopian nightmare, a similar system is underway in China. In 2015, China’s governing cabinet publicly called for the establishment of a nationwide tracking system to rate the
reputations of individuals, businesses, and government officials. The aim is for every Chinese citizen to be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources by 2020, and for those files to be searchable by fingerprints and other biometric characteristics. The State Council calls it a ‘credit system that covers the whole society’. A low score falls around 350, while a high score sits around 950. Those with higher scores earn certain privileges, while those who fall below can find themselves paying extra fines and facing penalties. And if you’re connected to people with higher scores, that helps boost yours, and likewise. The similarities are uncanny, and therefore the dire consequences could be too.