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How Black Mirror Is Foreshadowing Real Life Incidences

Edited by: Carol Eugene Park

Do you check your phone every morning and at night before heading off to bed? Are you guilty enough to deny this action? Well, you’ve come across the right post. We allow our daily lives to be hijacked by the constant buzzes and pings of technology when we know it’s the fear of missing something important that makes us paranoid. Although technology engulfs our attention into these small screens that happen to be permanently handcuffed to our palms, it seems that there is no way of escaping from it (even if you try). In fact, most of us are not even complaining as there is nothing to fear about since technology is so convenient…or is it?

The television series, Black Mirror was originally a British science fiction anthology series, centered around the dystopian dreamboat that is a thorough analysis of technology, our addiction towards it, and where it may possibly lead humanity. It wasn’t well known until Netflix picked it up and created six episodes with an American cast. A lot of these episodes are actually occurring in our world today which certainly foreshadows that the Black Mirror life might soon become reality!

Here are all the recent episodes, in chronological order, from the Black Mirror series that horrifically contrast real life incidences.

1. The National Anthem (Season 1, Episode 1)

Episode summary: The first episode of the series begins with the abduction of the British royal family’s beloved princess. The princess’ release, however, is dependent on one condition: that the British prime minister performs sexual intercourse with a pig on live national television. Despite attempting other methods to prevent this performance from occurring, the prime minister commits this horrendous act in front of a live audience as millions of civilians gathered around the nearest screen to view it. Although Prime Minister Callow refraines the media from broadcasting this vividly disturbing action on news, the video still makes its way through YouTube after it goes viral. The captured Duchess is released before the broadcast begins however, and her kidnapper eventually commits suicide.

Real life incidence: Coincidentally years after the episode premiered, the Daily Mail UK published an article in which Prime Minister David Cameron performed an obscene act with a dead pig’s head during his university days. He was notoriously known for inserting his genitals in a dead pig’s mouth for a sordid initiation ceremony after joining Oxford University’s dining society as a student. One thing is for sure, this outrageous act was definitely not streamed live for all of Britain to see. 

2. Fifteen Million Merits  (Season 1, Episode 2)

Episode summary: In a mundane slave-like world, where people spend their days exercising on electricity-generating stationary bikes to earn merit points, Bing gifts his admirer Abi enough credits for her to fulfill her dreams of performing her song on a reality show called “Hot Shot”. Although the judges seem fairly satisfied with her soothing voice, this performance eventually leads into an erratic turnaround in which they convince Abi to enter the porn industry against her own will. Furious by this devastating change, Bing gathers enough merit points from exercising excessively and enters the competition in hopes of getting Abi back. His performance was, Bing threatening to slit his neck with a shard of glass, which gave the judges the decision of offering Bing a spot in a show where he performs this exact stunt live every day. Bing eventually takes this offer and he is later shown living in luxury while experiencing less contentment than he previously had.

Real life incidence: As much as “Hot Shot” promises its winners a life of instant happiness based on instant fame and luxury, today’s reality shows lure contestants in a very similar yet horrific manner. American Idol and X Factor are certain reality shows in which the episode captures the terrifying and tyrannical nature of both. It seems perhaps very much similar in a way in which both shows pluck ordinary folks from their mundane drudgery and overwhelm them with stardom. This episode would certainly serve as a perfect reflection for American Idol and X Factor fans providing them with a dark yet cynical amalgamation.

3. The Entire History of You (Season 1, Episode 3)

Episode summary: In this episode, everyone has a grain implanted behind the back of their ears which allows them to record and review every miniscule moment of their lives. The contact lenses implanted on their eyes gives them the advantage of replaying these recordings at their own will on a big screen as they reminisce on old memories by the click of a button. However, not all memories appear to be idyllic. This invention allows Liam to learn that his wife cheated on him. He also realizes that his daughter is the result of his wife’s affair, which eventually leads to their divorce. As a result, Liam violently plucks the grain from the back of his ears, resulting in him living a life filled with no memories of past events.

Real life incidence: Although this technology might sound horrific, it will be our reality. In fact Google, Samsung, as well as Sony are all on separate missions to invent contact lenses that can record and playback the events we witness. These projects are planned out specifically in a way that will allow users to store everything they see, play back the events they’ve lived, and also, zoom in however they wish. These lenses are not availble in the market yet but sooner or later, we will be able to relive everything via the blink of an eye.

4. Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)

Episode summary: After a catastrophic car accident that kills her boyfriend Ash, Martha is introduced to a technology that allows her to communicate with him by uploading his past online communications and social media profiles into a certain software. This action eventually leads her to recreating him virtually through various simulations, ending up with an android that looks exactly like clone of him. First, she creates a chat-bot of Ash, then a voice on a phone, leading her to creating a digital avatar of him. Although the replication is close, Martha is paranoid with the simulated version of her boyfriend because he is not the same. Suddenly, she realizes she is pregnant with Ash’s child before his tragic car accident. Years later after giving birth to a beautiful girl, Martha allows her daughter to visit the android during the weekends in the attic where he is locked forever.

Real life incidence: After the episode was released in 2013, it was years after when Eugenia Kuyda created a digital replication of her best friend through the invention of a chat-box. She is the co-founder of Luka, a software development company in San Francisco, California. In collaboration with her company, Luka has designed a chat-bot called “Replika” which mimics a user’s personality. Kuyda initially began the chat-bot as a side project which eventually led her to having it as a simulacrum to bring her best friend Roman Mazurenko back to life.

5. White Bear (Season 2, Episode 2)

Episode summary: A woman named Victoria wakes up with amnesia as she navigates a desolated world where she is constantly hunted and stalked by violent predators as well as hundreds of bystanders who do nothing but film her with their phones. It turns out that the scenario is meant to be a staged punishment in an interactive amusement park due to her gruesome actions in the past. She is made to feel tortured every single day for abducting and killing a young girl with her boyfriend while filming this entire brutal act on her cell phone. Thus, Victoria is forced to relive this nightmare while actors and visitors partake in her torture as it is put on display like a tourist attraction.

 

Real life incidence: A few weeks ago, a fight erupted at Lawrence East Station in which a woman was drenched in mop-water by a man. This action was recorded and posted to Instagram by a Toronto-based hip-hop artist. Known for its title “TTC fight video,” the video has been viewed on various Toronto instagram meme accounts as the number of viewers escalated pretty quickly. This action is widely known as the “bystander effect“— a psychology term used to describe situations where bystanders choose against helping victims because they think and hope someone else will. Today, some people witness and pull out their smartphones to record a fight idly rather than intervening to help resolve it. You may have also heard of “WORLD STAR!!!” at certain schools where students gather around a fight as they record it on their phones, in hopes of later uploading it on social media. This phrase is referencing to “worldstarhiphop” which is notoriously known for videos being uploaded of people fighting.

6. The Waldo Moment (Season 2, Episode 3)

Episode summary: A blue animated figure called Waldo is a brash cartoon bear that is voiced by a comedian. Waldo runs for a local office to gain public admiration for an upcoming TV show, which eventually leads to a dark turn when the cartoon character begins to resonate with British voters who are sick of politicians. Although he is considered to be a candidate in the British election, he is also absurdly more popular than an actual human candidate. Waldo uses humor and satire to separate himself from professional politicians as he exceptionally remains the limelight of politics. Through the use of his vulgar mockery of the government system and his fellow running mates, Waldo gains a great amount of popularity. This eventually leads the man behind Waldo, a comedian named Jamie, to quit his job in which he has been fooling civilians the entire time as he has finally come to a realization that things have gone too far. Unfortunately Jamie loses control of his own creation including his hopes for humanity.

Real life incidence: Many folk believe that this very episode became a dark foreshadowing that predicted Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election. Trump, just like Waldo, began as a candidate who had been perceived as a joke which later resulted in him winning the favours of voters who enjoy his delusional approaches and vulgar remarks that are rather considered “entertaining.” Although this episode of Black Mirror was created long before there were any signs that Trump might actually win the 2016 presidential election, Black Mirror writer Charlie Brooker was quite astonished with the end results. As we’ve seen the number of more and more electoral votes surprisingly escalating during Election Night, it seems perhaps Waldo’s real-life moment has finally arrived.

7. White Christmas (Season 2, Episode 4)

Episode summary: Matt and Joe initially strike up a conversation about how they ended up in a remote hut in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, Matt reveals his job in which he used to be a dating coach by implanting contact lenses into his clients, allowing him to watch them interact with women from their perspective as he offers them advice. He later has to leave that life when a date resulted in the death of two people. Furthermore, he explains his second job in creating miniature digital slaves for people that find it sufficiently useful for doing house chores. Finally, after hearing Matt’s stories, Joe decides to open up about his past in which he murdered his partner’s father due to the fact that his wife’s father hid the truth of his daughter being a result of his wife’s affair. At the very end it is then revealed that Joe was interrogating Matt as he had revealed this act and received a confession out of him. The episode ends with Joe being tortured with the same Christmas song for eternity.

Real life incidence: Google Home is a smart speaker that almost resembles Matt’s invention. Developed by Google, this speaker enables users to to speak voice commands to interact with services around the user’s home as well as enabling their home automation features. This feature also involves the control and automation of light switches, ventilation, thermostats, air conditioning, background music, TV channels, security locks, as well as certain home appliances. The way the Google Home learns everything about you is by monitoring all of your email, browsing, phone use, etc. Although this device is not fully equipped to mastering every task you command it to do; perhaps you should consider giving it another few generations as our consciousness will be cloned into obedient domestic slaves.

8. Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1)

Episode summary: This episode describes a world where people’s lives are dictated by how others rank them on the basis of their behaviour. In fact, every work, business loans, home, and social standing is all based on the basis of other people rating their activities. The protagonist, Lacie, is invited to a friend’s wedding that will be filled with highly-rated people.This is a benefit for Lacie since it will help increase her rank. However, due to a series of unfortunate events along the way, Lacie ends up arriving late to her friend’s wedding with an incredibly low rating. She is kicked out of the venue and put behind bars after being rated down to zero and losing just about everything. The episode ends with her insulting an inmate who also happens to have a rating as low as hers.

Real life incident: The Chinese government is developing a social credit system in which citizens will be rated based on their financial, social, and legal information. Unfortunately, this will affect their regular life around the time when they start applying for loans, rent or buy a house or even want to get access to a hotel room. In fact, citizens will receive point deductions if they do not oblige certain rules like timely paying rents or follow specific policies. Their social media interaction will also be taken into account.

9. Playtest (Season 3, Episode 2)

Episode summary: In hopes of making a few cash, Cooper decides to become a test subject for a virtual reality horror game that eventually results in a fatal experiment. Before the game begins, Cooper’s mother calls him though he ignores it. He goes into a very dangerous simulation that is depicted based off of his deepest fears, including spiders, only to wake up and realize that he never left the initial game room where he was being tested. He ends up going home to meet his mother, however, she doesn’t recognize him. The episode later reveals that Cooper dies 0.04 seconds into the experiment when his mother’s phone call interferes with the technology in the very beginning.

Real life incidence: The virtual reality horror game in playtest seems like a terrifying version of the 2010 Arcade fire music video in which Google Maps and html5 used to set the video in the user’s childhood neighborhood or where they grew up in. It would be a more freaky tech representation if it were to be paired with MIT’s Nightmare Machine project which has the most innocuous yet horrific images.

10. Shut Up and Dance (Season 3, Episode 3)

Episode summary: 19-year-old Kenny unintentionally downloads malware into his laptop, allowing hackers to record him masturbating to porn. Eventually, the hacker uses it as an ammunition for increasingly dark blackmail by getting Kenny to perform a series of insane demands, including robbing a bank and fighting to death with another person who is also being blackmailed from the same hacker. Although Kenny ends up defeating the victim, he receives a message of a troll face showing that the hacker has released his video regardless of all these tasks he obliged to do. He eventually gets a call from his mother who received the exact video as she is disgusted to discover her son was masturbating to child pornography.

Real life incidence: In 2012, a young female from British Columbia named Amanda Todd was driven to commit suicide after years of extortion and manipulation by an online stranger who had collections of topless photos. When Todd refused to send more photos, the stranger followed her around the internet for years and sent her classmates nude pictures of Amanda through Facebook. This seems to be a chilling reminder that we should consider Mark Zuckerberg’s method of taping our own webcam or the camera on our laptops.

11. San Junipero (Season 3, Episode 4)

Episode summary: Yorkie and Kelly encounter each other in the virtual world and fall in love. This episode reveals that these ladies are both elderly women living vicariously through a programmed virtual world. Eventually, Yorkie dies and is allowed to live in the simulation forever. Although Kelly seems reluctant at first, once Yorkie requests to join her, she eventually decides to agree upon her decision and the pair live happily for eternity.

Real life incidence: Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that we’ll be able to digitize our persons by 2045. Although we are certainly not even close to that point in time, there still remains certain companies that are taking initiative to better understand the science of the human brain, just like the Human Brain Project. This project is known to be a H2020 FET Flagship Project which strives to accelerate the fields of neuroscience, computing and brain-related medicine by achieving strategic processes of scientific research programs. Perhaps there might be a virtual world similar to San Junipero in the near future.

12. Men Against Fire (Season 3, Episode 5)

Episode summary: A military organization fights against “roaches” who are dehumanizing to the soldiers. An augmented reality system is implanted into the soldiers’ heads, making these roaches appear inhuman and “genetically inferior.” The main point of the implant is to reduce the soldiers’ empathy towards their vulnerable targets. This allows the soldiers to feel accustomed to see theses creatures as enemy and non-human entities as it becomes easier to kill them without feeling any remorse or guilt. It isn’t too long until a virus infects Stripe’s implant, malfunctioning with its system. This further allows him to see that the roaches are not monsters but rather, innocent people are deemed “undesirable” by some greater political power that is running a eugenics program. Although Stripe attempts to fight back the people who have deceived him, he is later captivated and taken into a white room in which he was given the option to lose this new memory and restart, or have the memory of him killing all those innocent lives looped forever in his mind. The episode ends with Stripe standing in front of his beautiful fiance and a beautiful house, as the scene slowly shifts from his perception and later, into an actual view of what appears to be a decrepit shack.

Real life incidence: Although the thought of getting rid of empathy within soldiers seems horrifically pathetic and chilling, there are still certain military progressions in which similar protocols have been made. This includes the US military’s Nett Warrior and France’s “Future Soldier” programs, in which both equip troops with high-tech communications systems. This episode also seems to contrast with Trump’s fueled nationalism and xenophobia, as certain ethnicities are being despised, such as the LGBTQ community, immigrants, people of colour, as well as feminists.

13. Hated in the Nation (Season 3, Episode 6)

Episode summary: When a hacker figures how to weaponize social media outrage, the most hated person on the internet faces a gruesome death by thousands of programmed drone bees which have been deployed as a solution to the bee-killing Colony Collapse Disorder.  These series of deaths occur every day with seemingly no connection but rather d,etermined by a trending hashtag. Unfortunately, an attempt in deactivating these Autonomous Drone Insects results in actually killing all 300,000+ people who have participated in the online hate database.  The hashtags on social media become overwhelmingly viral that it has been causing people to actually die.

Real life incidence: Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology as well as Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have engineered Robobees that can legitimately be used for crop pollination. These programmed drones can pollinate flowers which ensures that a drop in the bee population does not affect the ecosystem. Let’s hope they will also eventually make them as not hackable as possible.

Still not convinced that these episodes may contrast with real life incidences? Well, it’s never too late to start binge watching this incredibly well-written show (unless you’re bombarded with an overwhelming amount of school work or anything that may create a barrier for you from watching it). On the other hand if you’re a diehard Black Mirror fan like me, you must be super stoked about hearing the news of Season 4! On August 25, 2017, Netflix released a trailer on YouTube providing a small snippet of all Season 4 episode titles. They have yet to announce the exact date of release, and I just can’t “control” my virtual excitement!

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Turna M.

U Toronto

Just another naive young adult who's yet to master the skills of "adulting."
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