Darkly satirical, this British series portrays the anomalies and excesses that new technologies could bring on. Robotics, AI, virtual reality, Pokemon Go… Black Mirror addresses them all; sometimes they get praise, more often, they get a thrashing 🙂
1. Be Right Back (S2 – EP1, 2014): Resurrection via artificial intelligence
Fiction: following the death of her companion, Martha creates an avatar of the deceased, using his cloud content. The app generates conversations from Martha’s boyfriend and she even has a 3-D corporal semblance of him made, an android tailored into a copy of the dearly departed.
Reality: firms like Calico and Hanson Robotics have developed robotics systems and artificial intelligence. Replika even offers you the ability to create and educate your own AI by conversing with it on-line.
2. Playstest (S3 – EP2, 2016): virtual reality
Fiction: to bankroll his trip around the world, a young man agrees to test a new enhanced-reality video game that’s uploaded straight to his brain. Let’s just say the experience was unforgettable…
Reality: some of the heavyweight studios are already on it, offering total immersion in artificial worlds that seem real. A studio called Asobo, with the help of Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, has developed astonishingly realistic cyber worlds.
3. The Entire History Of You (S1 – Ep3, 2011): bionic eyes that see all
Fiction: a young out-of-work lawyer suspects his wife is cheating on him. He gets a microchip implant and buys some bionic contact lenses so he can film, file, and view the entire adultery investigation.
Reality: the failure of Google Glass is just a momentary hitch. Just look at the enthusiasm for smart glasses by ODG and Vuzix, digitally connected bionic lenses by Google and Samsung, and the eyeborg system by cyborg artist Niel Harbisson.
4. White Bear (S2 – Ep2, 2013): frontier justice, PoGo-style
Fiction: a young woman has lost her memory and wakes up in a dodgy house. When she leaves the house, people track her, filming her with their smartphones. The hunt is on.
Reality: the episode is a critique of our mania for filming everything that moves, the omnipresence of smartphones, and extremes like nomophobia (smartphone addiction). There are also several parallels with worldwide trends like the video game Pokemon Go during the summer of 2016.
5. Nosedive (S3 – Ep1): the cut-throat ratings craze
Fiction: in a society where ratings drive consumers, Lacie tries to get the apartment of her dreams. It’s a ratings war that spins out of control.
Reality: the series denounces the race for favorable ratings, as well as the technological enabling that allows us to grade anything and everything, anywhere, all the time: food delivery services, taxi rides, apartment rentals, restaurants, you name it…