The British cult classic show Black Mirror first made its debut on Channel 4 back in late 2011 and now it gears up for its stateside revamp filled with an all-star cast. Created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror – which refers to the reflective omnipresent, dark screens of your smartphone, laptop, tablet and, yes, TV – is an anthology series which focuses on one of the most terrifying things that exist in our world today: technology. What started out as a colloquial show soon went viral, even attracting the likes of Jon Hamm who starred in the show’s 90-minute Christmas special, “White Christmas.” To put it this way, think of Black Mirror as the modern-day Twilight Zone for the existential crises of the Millennial era.
Brooker’s searing social commentary presents a place where technology has wreaked havoc and warped people’s minds. What is possibly one of the best things about Black Mirror is its ability to present something that seems completely ridiculous, but at the same time, something wholly familiar. The dystopian alternative realities – or simply extreme social scenarios – don’t feel that far off from the current state of our tech-dependent world, which only makes them that much more unsettling. Letting technology take over our social, domestic, and working lives, we are advancing to the point where we give it too much control or lose control of it altogether.
Each self-contained episode of Black Mirror opens with new characters in grim circumstances, navigating the dark side of technology, questioning everything from social media and smartphones to Google Glass and Artificial Intelligence. Although future tech is an integral part of Black Mirror’s DNA, the show is grounded in human flaws. We can have the most sophisticated devices surrounding us or even implanted in our heads, but it’s how we use them that matters. The episodes are so intense that you most likely will need to take a break to let your mind process what just happened thanks to the show’s ability to really hone in on what’s misguided, or downright egregious about the way our world operates today.
One example is “The Entire History of You” from Season 1. The episode (which may be turned into a feature film by Robert Downey Jr.) takes a look at what would happen if we were able to relive all of our memories. Implanted with a “grain” (essentially a miniature camera), the characters’ entire lives are filmed and ready at their fingertips to play back at their leisure, keeping the greatest memories and deleting the worst. What’s terrifying is our world is already heading towards this future, living through social media such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook… but if we were able to do it all the time and in detail, would we end up living in the past? What’s worst is the temptation to nitpick every frame of every moment could lead to a downward spiral of obsession or the imminent rise in narcissism.
Another example Black Mirror takes a look at is artificial intelligence. What happens when we give too much artificial intelligence to the wrong software? Though many see AI as science fiction, it’s quite the opposite. In fact we are already living in a world of AI, but instead of seeing a robot, we see it in smartphones, computers and video games. Especially with video games being able to bring a new level of realism and immersion to the experience, it’s no surprise influencers such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have revealed to having nightmares about the future of AI. Many believe we are just taking a small leap, a small advancement, but if we look at everything in aggregate, we are moving towards a place where we’ve uploaded our lives and our thoughts and there’s a cost to that. With every advancement to technology, there’s always something darker lurking and we haven’t given much thought to the potential consequences.
Maybe our dystopian future is not too far off. Known as The Singularity – the hypothetical point when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence – computer networks may become self-aware. Though advanced AI and interfaces between people and computers has helped mankind evolve, there is a possibility however, that AI might allow machines to take over the world. Or maybe one day virtual reality and augmented reality will become indistinguishable from reality. This is exactly what Brooker has set out to do with Black Mirror, show us a world so populated with technology that we can no longer separate ourselves from it, driving extreme behavior we nonetheless fully recognize within ourselves. Brooker states, “I don’t worry about technology. Black Mirror is me worrying about us.”
You can watch the first two seasons of Black Mirror streaming on Netflix now. Make sure to catch Black Mirror Season 3 which airs on Netflix on Friday, October 21, giving us a foreboding view on a not so distant dark future. Check out the trailer here.