During a two week sinus infection, I recently binge watched the entire Black Mirror catalog on Netflix (only goes up to Season 3).
It’s a dis-topian view of how technology will shift our future in some very, very, very bad ways. Think technological nightmares.
But Black Mirror is not about tomorrow.
Black Mirror is about today – showing us the dark reflections of who we already are. Each episode simply makes it more literal in a future where technology and our use and reliance on it has corrupted a natural life.
Don’t read on if you are going to watch the series and haven’t. Plenty of spoilers.
In Season 1, “The National Anthem” (my least favorite episode) shows us the extend to where a politician will go to unnatural acts because of the whims of the people based on the real-time feedback of the people.
The only difference between this and today is the reaction time. We don’t have leaders who stand for principles. We have leaders who sway with public sentiment or only to protect the base of their power.
“Fifteen Million Merits” imagines a world where people have become power sources by cycling all day (hey, not so bad) and manipulated by a pop-culture infrastructure to the point where there is no truth, no beauty.
Most of the billions of people on this planet work to survive on jobs which society needs but provide no actual purpose other than to feed the economic machine of growth. We’re mostly a planet of drones who have willingly given up any aspiration of having any real meaning in life. The second moral here is that anything that contains truth and beauty is quickly corrupted. Already there.
“The Entire History of You” shows us the future of technology where everything in our lives is available on video, and the detriment to relationships and humanity.
Today, we as humans already use the past as a weapon against each other, and have since we’ve held long term memories. Our record on social media has already created a mine field of every thing we’ve ever said. There are claims that we’ll adjust and be more accepting, more forgiving, but the trend is still vilification or apathy.
Season 2 is even better. “Be Right Back” examines how AI and robotics will try but fail to narrow the gap of loneliness. A better and more beautiful short story about this was written by Adam Johnson in Fortune Smiles called “Nirvana.” In the end, virtual does not substitute for the real thing.
Today, we’re constantly trying to feel connected through social media rather than real life. We’re already poorer every day through the use of technology to connect us.
“White Bear” is probably the largest melodrama of the bunch, where we see a future world where people are just voyeurs with no actual moral compass for what is going on around them. There’s a story within a story, both with the same point.
Self-explanatory. We’re already there.
“The Waldo Moment” looks at how virtual entities can be corrupted to mean more than they should in all kinds of ways.
Yes. Every social media technology, ever.
The tale of “White Christmas” was one of the best because of the role of John Hamm, where we see technology used to both isolate us and invade our privacy when wielded by authority.
This is not new. Just new technology.
Season 3 starts with “Nosedive“, where our social media reputation is paramount to every part of life, and a one-star rating can not just ruin your day it can ruin your life.
People today obsess about twitter followers, how many likes they received on a post, and live and die by their feed.
“Playtest” is one where I can’t really draw an analogy to today. Maybe just a cautionary tale about integrating AI deeply into our lives.
Not there yet, but we’re not going to have to wait too long.
“Shut Up and Dance” takes hacking to a personal level, where it’s not just corporations but individuals who are blackmailed.
I’m covering the camera from now on when I commit social crimes on my iPad. (Just kidding)
“San Junipero” extracts humanity into a digital form of afterlife where you continue as your avatar in a virtual world. The deep message here are prolonging life often creating more pain than good is sugar coated with a happy ending.
We do this today with medicine instead of virtual reality.
“Men Against Fire” is one of the best episodes of the entire collection, where soldiers senses are augmented to see the enemy as less human, as diseased, in order to encourage them to fight.
This is what propaganda has done since it’s invention. The U.S. President did this throughout his campaign, demonizing individuals, entire races of people. He appealed to the hate in people, fed on the most base elements of humanity, and divided our country in ways it may take decades to repair.
“Hated in the Nation” is my absolute favorite. The ending again could be removed and the darkness would be deeper. An AI is unleashed to kill whoever is getting the most negative sentiment on social media. The emotional damage of mud slinging becomes physical as people die because when they become the target of hate by others, and then their own hate is turned back on them.
Today the online world allows us to be our ugliest selves. I have seen friends from high school slander each other, seen them make statements that are uglier than anything I ever saw in the halls of the cruel institutions of teenage learning.
Now I need to go check out season 4.