We take a look back on Black Mirror episodes that are starting to resemble our present.
Want to track down a man in seven minutes using facial recognition in China? Here you go. Want to talk to a dead relative or friend? No Problem. How about testing new military equipment using video games? Gotcha covered! These scenarios may sound far fetched yet the truth is we’ve been getting more or less of a sample of them from creator and writer (time traveler?) of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker for years.
These technological Tales from the Crypt-like vignettes are mind bending cautionary stories about the future we’re creating. If we aren’t careful they will soon become reality. Here’s a look at a few examples of the warnings Black Mirror is trying to give us and actual tech that’s being developed right now that will play a major role in our future.
1 – Nosedive (S03, E01)
The other day I read an obituary of a man that ended with how many Instagram followers and likes he had on Facebook. That’s just a sad reality of the world we live in today. I can see why a company needs likes or views, but the same shouldn’t be said for individuals. With the rise of social media influencers, a moniker that makes me flinch, it’s inevitable that we’ll become the main character in Nosedive from Black Mirror.
Nosedive takes us on a journey of a woman who can’t get from point A to point B simply because she doesn’t have the necessary amount of ‘likes’, which are used as currency. You can basically bankrupt someone out of spite.
A precursor to the Nosedive scenario are the Uber ratings we give drivers and passengers. Tinder takes it to the next level where we can just swipe left on whoever we deem unfit. As harmless as that may be, it was followed up with Peeple, an app that lets you rate normal people you interact with on a daily basis. I’m swiping left on this one. Hard thumbs down.
2 – White Bear (S02, E02)
This one sent chills down my spine. A woman wakes up and is chased by masked maniacs who are trying to kill her. All the while people in the town she is running through are filming her and making no attempt whatsoever to save her life. Eventually, she does find some help and is led to safety. Or so we’ve been told. It turns out she’s committed an unspeakable crime and is sentenced to be tortured over and over again in front of an audience with no escape.
While public executions seem to be a thing of the past, China seems to have them regularly and most recently on display in a stadium with thousands of people filming on camera phones. With reality TV letting audiences be the judge and jury, we’re not too far off where we’ll be executioner too.
3 – Be Right Back (S02, E01)
Be Right Back tells the tale of a woman who loses her husband to a car crash on his way home. While grieving his loss everyday, a friend offers her solace in a new technology that lets her chat with her husband by using his old social media platform. E-mails, texts, online posts etc. are all compiled to emulate talks from the grave. As she chats with the bot, it learns and corrects itself based on conversations with her.
As if that wasn’t enough, the same company combines the AI with a robot replica of the man completing their ‘God complex’ Tour de force. Because of her desperate state, she allows this madness to take place.
The crazy part is this technology already exists in the real world. We’re basically living out this episode in reality, it just hasn’t hit the main stream yet. I don’t need to play Words with Friends with Casper the reanimated friendly ghost. Thanks but no thanks. With our advances in robotics, these creepy Real Dolls and the world’s first robot citizen in Saudi Arabia, I think it’s safe to say we’re all screwed (literally and figuratively).
4 – Hated in the Nation (S03, E06)
Robot bee drones. Spy and kill. Need I say more? There are people tinkering with this tech as we speak. Why? Who knows! What are we doing here people? Why have we come this far to invent ways to spy on each other that haven’t already been invented? What have we become? Oh, wait I can answer that. A parody of a parody of a James Bond film. Someone call 007. We need his help!
While this episode of Black Mirror probably takes it to an extreme with the killer bees part, it may not be too far off. Why would we need these things in the first place? With the GPS in our phones and meta data from our pictures, we can efficiently track someone if we wanted to. So the next time you’re out tending to your garden, make sure you aren’t in your birthday suit or talking about that time you experimented with microwaved grapefruits.
5 – Playtest (S03, E02)
Virtual Reality may have a very long way to go, but our Black Mirror future is throwing up stop signs just to be safe.
When an American traveler is low on cash, he decides to test out a new game for a tech innovator to buy a ticket back home. And boy oh boy does it turn out poorly for this young chap. The game actually uses his memory to create life-like and terrifying experiences that makes Freddy Kruger blush.
Quick story. I recently played the John Wick VR experience after checking out Coco (again, bring tissues) and I thought it was amazing. It was nothing like Playtest (thank the old gods and the new) but I noticed a couple things.
First, I’m no John Wick. I would’ve gotten my ass blown off the roof of that building faster than Marty McFly goes back in time. B, even though the graphics weren’t up to 4K snuff, I was COMPLETELY immersed. I thought these guys were really breathing down my neck and the helicopter I shot out of the sky really landed by St. Patrick’s cathedral in NYC.
Point being is that what Black Mirror does with this episode is a long, long way off. But because of the fact that VR is making incredible and affordable strides that could one day combine with invasive technology in the form of RFID tags, it isn’t exactly an impossibility.
6 – Men Against Fire (S03, E05)
Speaking of shoot em up Virtual Reality, we rage into a battle with seemingly alien beings in this episode. What looks like a video game is actually a P.O.V. account from a soldier on the ground having trouble with his basic training. Turns out that training consisted of a brain washing technique that manipulated what the soldier saw in battle: the aliens were actually human civilians who support the opposite side.
The message was clear on this one. By desensitising the soldier, it’s easier for him to make the kill and have less empathy by making him think he was killing a mutant or alien. It’s kind of like playing the zombie mode of Call of Duty. Bang bang in the head and that’s that. Also, there’s actually something scary similar that’s happening right now with the same idea: Drone strikes.
It’s a small step at taking the empathy out of war but it’s happening. But because we are developing robots to take the place of men, it’ll be a wash by the time we arrive to the future. Maybe men won’t have to be brainwashed after all and the only damage we’ll have to clean up are scattered T-1000 parts.
7 – San Junipero (S03, E04)
Let’s end this on a rare high note that Black Mirror rarely explores: Eternal love. What if I told you it’s possible to enjoy your loved one in the afterlife? San Junipero explores a future where death is no match for spending eternity with your soul mate. You can travel to any time in your life, always in your prime and in the arms of your real life angel. Apparently they aren’t the only ones who think it’s possible.
San Junipero tells us we’ll have the choice to store our consciousness into hard drives located at revamped nursing homes. As we near death, we can choose to either die naturally or preserve the memories we’ve created onto a hard drive. I’d rather choose the latter. Hopefully, the bonds we’ve constructed in our waking life will continue with new technology. Maybe, one day, heaven will be a place on earth.
Check out Black Mirror Season 4 now streaming on Netflix for more glimpses into our future.
For more freaky TV suggestions, check out our article on the 10 best scary shows on Netflix.