What if hashtags killed people? What if your social media influence decided what places you could access in real life?
Black Mirror is one of those shows where technology is the background antihero, albeit in a darker tone. It’s a British anthology and Netflix original series that takes a look at society in the present or near future and how technology affects people’s lives. It highlights our society’s dependence of technology, showing that if we’re not careful, we may actually live these “alternate” realities.
The episodes, while unconnected one to another (which makes it easy to pick up any episode in any order you desire), show how technology could destroy our lives.
Black Mirror may be considered science fiction, but each episode is not really far off from reality. Instead of Google Glass, there are implants that can record everything we do. Instead of liking people’s Instagram breakfast pictures, you like their interactions in real life, and so on.
The episodes may be exaggerating, but they do contain logical rules. In earlier seasons, there’s an episode where a cartoon character runs for political office. It may sound absurd at first, but it’s a matter of time before similar things happen in real life (cue the Twilight Zone theme song).
No matter where you start watching, each episode is a commentary on a lot of things from our technologically-infused lives.
Season 4 of Black Mirror was released on Netflix last month and instead of ranking them from worst to best, I’ll give you a small preview of what goes on in this season’s episodes without spoiling them for you.
This episode alludes to the immersive nature of virtual reality games. It starts off with a scene worthy of the classic Star Trek, along with cheesy effects and that 4:3 resolution nobody remembers. In the game Robert Daly is the captain of a ship, but in real life, he’s just a shy chief technology officer of a gaming company of worldwide fame thanks to a virtual reality game. Contrary to his endeavors in the virtual reality world he has created, Robert Daly is unappreciated by his coworkers. However, you’ll soon discover that Robert is not who you think he is, as he becomes a tyrant in his virtual reality game.
This episode deals with consciousness and what it really means. It also involves some uncomfortable scenes akin to the concept of what constitutes life. If you create something that can think, even though it’s not “real,” can it be considered life? Also, when we stimulate pain in video games, what does it say about us?
Arkangel opens up with a young mother named Marie who has the scare of her life when she briefly loses her child at a playground. This leads her to opt for an experimental cranial implant program that lets Marie see what her daughter sees and feel via a tablet, as well as access her current location, vitals, and mood.
Just imagine what would happen if your mother was able to see what you see. Fun, right? This episode’s tech concerns are similar to the debate of tracking chips in humans. These are already available for pets nowadays, but how would you feel if you could be tracked at all times?
I don’t consider this one the best episode of the season, but I’d say is the more effective in the delivery of its message.
This episode explores the concept of previous seasons where technology can access your thoughts to the point of recording them. With a device the size of a candy bar placed on a person’s temple, memories are able to be displayed on a nearby screen for future reference or used as evidence. In this episode, a drunk Mia and Rob are driving back home from a party and accidentally hit a cyclist on their way. Mia quickly grabs her phone to dial 911, but Rob begs her to not do that, as he’ll go to jail. Instead, they get rid of the body and the bike.
Years later, Mia’s life is thriving with a successful career, a husband and a nine-year-old while Rob’s life has gone down the drain. Trying to make amends, Rob meets up with Mia and tells her he plans on telling the widow of the cyclist he ran down the truth. However, this conversation doesn’t go well, especially now that Mia is a successful architect.
Everything unravels when an insurance company is investigating an accident Mia witnessed.
The most interesting thing about this episode is the fact that if focuses on privacy (and the lack thereof) more than everything else. This memory tech had the power to identify faces from people’s memory, giving the viewer the idea that we’re never not being watched.
Hang the DJ
I found this episode that best portrays today’s dating world. This episode follows the story of Frank and Amy in a world where dating is a highly-regulated event managed by a faceless artificial intelligence program called “The System.” It leads participants through mandatory relationships which helps its algorithms eventually pair you to your “perfect match.” The catch is that participants have no agency in regard to who will be their next “match.”
The system does everything. It assigns dinner, hails cabs and even assigns how long the relationship will last. It could be years or even hours.
This episode makes you wonder what kind of disaster occurred that made humanity prefer a computer choose their “perfect match” instead of going out there and risking it.
This episode is one of the most positive ones in the season, but I cannot say why without spoiling anything.
This episode felt more of a short film and less of what makes Black mirror, well, Black Mirror.
This is the tamest episode and the most tongue-in-cheek toward the future of automation. A robot the size of a medium-sized dog is hunting a woman named Bella, who is at first trying to retrieve a package out of a warehouse.
This warehouse could’ve easily been an Amazon Warehouse devoid of humans thanks to the robot revolution. It’s basically a Terminator landscape (albeit with cuter killing machines).
Even in black and white, despair and hopelessness show their colors, as this episode is tense from beginning to end.
Unlike other episodes in the last four seasons of Black Mirror, this episode gives us a person to blame for technology.
This episode uses Letitia Wright as an excuse to show the viewers a catalog of sadomasochistic perversions provided by technology through stories told by the Museum’s keeper, Rolo Haynes.
It is an uncomfortable episode, as we see all these despicable things through the mood of the narrator, who seems to have fun with the atrocities he has displayed in his eponymous museum.
Season 4 in a nutshell
In short, Black Mirror is at its best when it shows how hopeless we have become in the face of technology and how, bit by bit, we’re taking the human out of the equation one advancement at a time. Before you start watching it, you should know it’s dark, especially the first episode of season one (you can start watching from episode two if you’d like).
Black Mirror is the kind of series that seems like satire until you realize that the future depicted in it is not far off from where you’re standing now.
I, for one, welcome our technology overlords.