Black Mirror, Imagination Gets Closer to Reality

Aug 1, 2017 · 6 min read

The dark science fiction series, Black Mirror, is one of the best shows to binge on Netflix. It gives a great sense of future and how technology is gonna affect humanity. The series has captured public’s fascination and more people are being addicted to the way it played with people’s mind. There are episodes that are ridiculously exaggerated, but there are many, which are actually a BLACK MIRROR of our society. The technologies in some of the episodes are scaringly close to what’s happening around us in the real world.

Let’s explore some of the most popular episodes and the featured futuristic technologies that exist even today.

#1 Ranking based social system for humans

We have been asked to rate and rank everything these days, from mobile games to online products. In the first episode of season 3, ‘Nosedive’, a ranking based system dominates the society. The episode was a combination of fun and frustration where people from friends to strangers can rate one’s popularity out of five stars. People fight to get better social approval ratings, which make them eligible for amenities. These can range from basic to luxury things based on their ratings. Not just that, a very poor rating can lead you to jail as well.

If you think rankings are limited to games only, then wake up to BBC reports. The Chinese government is allegedly developing a social credit system. They are planning to rate citizens based on their financial, social, and legal information. So in future, you can actually end up being socially boycotted for breaking a traffic signal or posting on social media against Trump.

#2 Exercise to earn credits and spend on virtual world

‘Fifteen Million Merits’ is one of the most heart-wrenching episodes of the Black Mirror where people live in a slave like world and exercise on a bike to earn merits. These merits help them in taking part in reality shows or watch porn in virtual reality simulations. The idea of cycling to light a city is promising. However, the episode has many disturbing moments, whether it’s the immense talent abused by reality show judges or the misuse of different technologies. At one place, episode lead Bing had to watch the advertisement of sexual act of his friend Abi and he couldn’t skip it as he is out of credits. The eye tracking technology is already present in some smartphones where videos play and pause if the person is looking or ignoring it.

#3 Upload your soul to AI or get a Droid home

One of the very few seemingly positive episodes of Black Mirror was ‘San Junipero’. In this, humans can upload their consciousness and transverse eternally in the party heaven of an 80’s inspired beach town. There is active research happening around projects like BRAIN Initiative, Blue Brain, and Human Brain Project, which deal in brain emulation and mapping brain connectivity. Scientists have already created a digital worm and transferred it into a robot and hence an artificial brain is not something impossible.

In another Black Mirror episode, ‘Be Right Back’, a woman named Martha brings home a digital replica of her dead husband. She subscribes to an online service that allows people to stay in touch with the deceased one. They create a virtual replacement using their past communications and the social data. Well, this is pretty close to reality with chatbots and conversational interfaces already making intelligent emotional conversations with humans. Russian engineer, Eugenia Kuyda has gathered all information posted online by a dead friend and created an Artificial Intelligence app, Luka, giving users an opportunity to chat with Luka. Martine Rothblatt, the founder of SiriusXM satellite radio went a little ahead and modeled a bodyless robot Bina48. Furthermore, the robot is constantly improved with real conversations with the Rothblatt’s wife, Bina Aspen.

#4 Zooids, the killing insect drones of the future

Honeybees pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species that feed over 90% of the world’s population. Losing honeybees means losing all the plants and the animals that feed on them and jeopardizing our own survival. The near extinction of bees and our race has been the highlight of the episode ‘Hated in the nation’ where drones have been created to supplement the dying bees population. However, it also serves as the mass government surveillance system. But government’s little plan gets backfired and drones have been used to target and kill citizens.

The drones and their biological counterparts such as superbugs are already giving global farming a makeover. So, it’s not unlikely to imagine their transformation from farming to spying to killing machines.

#5 Bionic eyes or thought controlled contact lens

Contact lenses that scan and record individual’s vision have made a recurring appearance in several episodes of Black Mirror. Whether it’s about replaying old memories in the ‘Entire history of you’ or giving ratings to people in ‘Nosedive’ or distorting soldier’s reality in ‘Men Against Fire’.

But, this sounds very close to the smart contact technology by Sony and Samsung or Google Glass. It seems like they will enter the real world sooner than we think. Smartphones or audio commands or thought controls will be used to control these lenses. The thought control is especially relevant as the brain controlled devices have started entering the market. Blending brain control with contact lenses will be a little challenging but not impossible.

#6 Media and social media frenzy

The first ever episode of Black Mirror, ‘National Anthem’ featured a shocking tale of British Prime Minister forced to perform sexual intercourse with a pig on national television in exchange for a kidnapped princess. PM Callow refrained media from broadcasting this news, but the video becomes viral after being uploaded on YouTube. The initial public sympathy melts away after a social media backlash. Finally, he breaks under the pressure of repercussions and performs the act in front of live audience. This episode discusses the ineffable power of the social media and internet.

Our present world is also terrorized by videos of ISIS decapitating people for social media buzz. Moreover, terrorists are recruiting people and spreading hatred via Twitter and Facebook.

#7 Hacking private lives

Black Mirror episode, ‘Shut up and dance’ was a reality call for many. It showed us how easy it is to get access to private webcams, CCTVs, and microphones and blackmail people into doing dreadful things. The technology is not from future, it’s already around us.

There are CCTVs and webcams everywhere and anything can be hacked right from our smartphones to the US presidential elections. Recently parents were stunned to find a stranger spooking their 3-year old by hacking their baby monitor and webcam. There are also several instances of people having their intimacy violated and uploaded on pornographic websites. Furthermore, the US Justice department also published a story of a pervert filming over 200 women through their webcams.

That’s not all

The technologies featured in some of the episodes are not commonplace, but definitely not far fetched. Black Mirror poses a harsh truth that the future would be a blend of amazing technologies and a horrible nightmare. Seriously, I would avoid stepping in a future with these technologies, if given a choice 😉 But they are coming soon…

This article was first published on Inkoniq Blog.

If you need support in designing the interfaces and experiences of tomorrow, Inkoniq would love to help you.


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