These two “Black Mirror” episodes explore machine learning’s potential

Machine learning has taken the technology world by storm in recent decades. Now, artificial intelligence (AI)-based programs and entities make up a considerable portion of the industry, from user convenience programs (Siri, Alexa) to robotics.

This fascinating concept, among others similar to it, is just one of many real-life trends explored, dissected, and occasionally satirized by Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror,” an anthology science fiction show examining modern tech culture through a Rod Serling-esque lense. Machine learning and AI appear as regular show themes, and while these episodes are mostly rooted in fantastical future scenarios, they are also extensions and exaggerations of actual tech developments.

Here is a quick look at how real-life machine learning concepts are implemented into two episodes of “Black Mirror:” “Be Right Back” and “Playtest.”

Human simulation via machine learning: “Be Right Back”

A young woman suddenly loses her fiance in car accident; grief-stricken and hungry for closure, she confides in a machine learning program that can absorb the personal details of an individual, via his or her web-based interactions and posts, and simulate him or her as if he or she were still alive. This scenario results in a tragic parable of human connection, examining the very definitions of life and love.

Read more