Are we living in an episode of Black Mirror?
Charlie Brooker’s creepy creation Black Mirror has become a cultural phenomenon over the years. In the show, each episode is standalone – depicting a time (which could be now or in the near future) where technology has a major impact on society. Brooker was inspired by The Twilight Zone for his incredibly successful drama series.
Should we be worried that we’re living in an episode of Black Mirror? Technology advancement very much looks like we’re in some of them – and on the cusp of others.
Be prepared for spoilers if you haven’t watched Black Mirror in full!
We’ve got virtual characters
When Apple unveiled the iPhone X, one of the playful selling points included the Animoji feature. Using Face ID, you could choose your favourite emoji to be your mouth piece – you speak or sing and the emoji’s mouth moves. It was a novelty, but we loved it.
At the time of the iPhone X announcement, Black Mirror’s Twitter page were clearly aware of the similarities:
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) September 12, 2017
Series 2’s final episode, The Waldo Moment, featured a computer animated bear named Waldo, that was voiced and controlled by a comedian. Waldo’s popularity sees his gaining a TV show commissioned, and as a bid to promote it, Waldo is entered into a by-election.
Things get a bit out of hand as his support continues to rise and even America wants a taste of Waldo. The comedian, Jamie, begs the general public not to vote for his character Waldo – and luckily, they listen to him.
We’ve got rating systems
Rate your experience, tell us about your Uber trip, how was your meal at this fancy restaurant? Everywhere we go, and a lot of what we do in every day life expects your thoughts on it. Whether you’ve bought something worth £5 or you’re finding a potential partner in life, you’ll be able to rate it.
Tinder bases its user experience on whether the person you’re looking at is either good looking enough for you to delve a little deeper, or their bio grabs your interest to want to speak to them. Uber’s model of rating drivers can make the difference between someone keeping that job or not.
Wise owl Brooker takes this system that we already use regularly and pushes it to the extreme. In Series 3’s opener, Nosedive, all aspects of human life boils down to what your rating is. The better you do in life – and the more perks you get – comes from a higher rating.
In the episode, we see Lacie striving to improve her score so she can get a nice apartment. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen after a few mishaps at her friends’ wedding sees her score continue to drop until it hits zero. This ideology was reported as rolling out in China, with your rating affecting your credit score.
We’ve got parental controls
Wanting to shield your children from anything potentially harmful or upsetting is a natural instinct. As the world continues to live online, it’s understandable that there are precautions put in place by parents to ensure their little ones don’t come across anything too adult or damaging.
Putting blocks on certain websites, banning apps, monitoring screen time and having password protected devices are pretty common place in the life of a modern mum or dad.
In the Black Mirror version, parental involvement becomes much more extreme with a parent being able to see her child’s every move. Series 4’s Arkangel sees mum Marie frantically trying to find her daughter Sara after she takes her eye off her for a moment.
The panic sees Marie investing in the Arkangel system – Sara is implanted and her mum can see her moves through a tablet. Not only that, Marie can block out anything she doesn’t want her daughter to see, like blood. Marie disables the tablet but reactivates when her child becomes rebellious – Marie gets a front row seat to behaviour she’d rather not see.
We’ve got virtual reality gaming
Virtual reality and augmented reality have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. Virtual reality gaming like the PlayStation headset allows you to become even more engrossed in your favourite games – even if you look a little bit weird when you’re playing them. It wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary if virtual reality gaming overtook traditional console gaming as technology progresses, and becomes cheaper.
As with anything Black Mirror related, virtual reality has a dark side to it. In Series 3’s Playtest, Cooper decides to trial an augmented reality game to earn some money while travelling. Seems pretty harmless, right?
The test involves participants facing some of their fears to make the game more engaging. A gadget is implanted into Cooper’s neck so he can begin – he’s left alone in a mansion where certain things make him jump. As the game progresses, Cooper has some serious reactions to mental and physical pain and the game must be terminated.
We trust in technology to find us a partner
Doesn’t everyone meet their significant other online these days? We’re inundated with apps and sites that allow us to upload information about ourselves as well as our interests, in the hope to find someone like-minded.
Depending upon your location, age range, favourite bands – you could find hundreds of potential dates, all from the comfort of your phone. With apps like Tinder, you can swipe through who you’d like to meet or with Happn, you can strike up a conversation if you’ve literally crossed paths.
In Season 4 of Black Mirror, a few hundred potential suitors won’t quite cut it. You’ll need to go through 1,000 trial runs of dates to find your perfect match. Going through the ‘System’, Amy and Frank are matched together on a trial run. For each match that is made, the couple will have a specific time frame – it could be a few hours or it could be a number of years. Amy and Frank don’t get long but they realise they like each other.
When they’re matched again, they make a pact not to check their expiry date. Their time together is cut short but before Amy meets her forever match, she asks to see Frank again, prompting an escape from the System.
We’re exploring the validity of autonomous vehicles
Driverless cars have been a hot topic for a while. Apple are looking into it, as are Google – trial runs are both promising and terrifying. People have been hurt as the technology is straightened out but companies are pushing forward with testing to ensure this isn’t a far-off idea – it’ll be common before we know it.
Pizza Hut announced at CES 2018 that they were partnering up with Toyota to bring autonomous delivery vehicles which left a few people realising this concept was familiar. There’s only one place we could have seen something like this; Black Mirror.
We know how this goes. https://t.co/1nTDxuOrlD
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) January 8, 2018
In Series 4’s Crocodile, an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle hits a pedestrian and sparks an insurance claim. In order to investigate the claim, the victim’s insurance company contacts witnesses to access their memories to see how the incident played out. The witnesses interviewed can’t give anything definitive, but one account shows a woman watching the incident out of her hotel window.
By law, this lady Mia has to give her account but as she’d committed murder just before the accident, and investigator Shazia sees it for herself. To avoid being caught, Mia murders Shazia too. Do we want to back out of self-driving vehicles now?
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