“Black Mirror” is a British show you should know! Created and written by Charlie Brooker, a British humourist, « Black Mirror » adopts the anthology format to tell separate narratives with a different cast for each of its seven episodes. Broadcasted since 2011, “Black Mirror” displays a collective unease about our embrace of technology in the modern world. It refers to what all the screens in our lives look like. Brooker has described the show as “the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”.
Western civilization might be bipolar when it comes to technological progress. We demand ever more connectivity and powerful devices… yet we lash out in shocked horror at the NSA for taking logical advantage of those same tools we embrace. From Minority Report to the Terminator franchise, we’re good at painting scary images of a techno-powered future. But unlike those dystopias, “Black Mirror” uses dark humor, not sci-fi polemics, to challenge us while entertaining us.
There is no consistent set of characters, no epic battle between warring families, no antihero, no singular lovable/hateable protagonist around which to rally. Even without dragons, “Black Mirror” is compelling in its exploration of the implications of our tech embrace.
The series deals with gamification, new forms of criminal punishment, a reimagination of digital terrorism, and more. However, sad stories are also presents in “Black Mirror”. For example, the first episode of season 2 focuses on a woman who’s just lost her husband in an automobile accident. After the funeral, her friend tells her she can still talk to her dead husband. It’s not because of a Ouija board or some other paranormal gateway. It’s a software service that ingests all of her husband’s public content and develops an interactive, artificial-intelligence bot that communicates through text messages as her husband would. Ghost texting. Later, she’s offered an opportunity to upgrade her virtual husband by handing over his personal emails and videos, etc., which will allow her to speak with him on the phone.
What are the ethics of such a service? Does it help her heal or prevent her from moving on? Is this where Facebook is headed?
And that’s just one episode. The magic of the show is that scenarios like this one aren’t insanely far-fetched. One of you reading this might be working on an Afterlife Bot right now. Stop! Watch “Black Mirror first”.
“Black Mirror” is the perfect show for our times. We’ve created a self-fulfilling technology adoption engine where things are faster, more connected, more immersive—and, presumably, relentlessly better. Watch “Black Mirror” and be reminded that we apply the word progress to undergird what is more objectively change.
Alas, there is no legitimate way to access its six episodes outside of the U.K. I think of this as Brooker’s perversely delightful challenge: You’re a resourceful person. I trust you to figure it out. We all need you to figure it out.