Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is one of the cleverest shows around, but it’s one of the super scariest too. Each episode plays out a scenario that shows what might happen to our daily lives if society evolves in a particular way. And guess what? Those possible futures are rather grim. Worse, plotlines have a painful tendency to look like they’ll soon come true.
But hey, at least Black Mirror is beautifully scripted, carefully thought-out, and casted with excellent actors. We’ve never been so entertainingly worried. With the third season landing on Netflix this month, we take a look at the show’s most frightening predictions, and whether they could at all become reality.
We’ll all be replaced by creepy automatons after we die
What should happen to the social media profiles of deceased? Should access to the account and the information it contains remain private? Or go to a family member or friend? If so, which? The episode Be Right Back takes this idea of death meeting technology a whole step further. What if, from videos, photos and other information existing online, you could recreate someone’s appearance and personality and download them into a robot? After her boyfriend Ash passes away, Martha signs up to a service that recreates him virtually - first in the form of messages and phone calls, and then into something that can be downloaded onto a android, thus creating a sort of clone of her dead partner. Frighteningly enough, a start-up in Australia called Humai is already working on the idea.
Our lives will be ruled by a horrible reality TV show
In Fifteen Million Merits, society has become a horrible dystopia in which people have to sit on bikes and pedal in order to earn currency – i.e. merits - while watching TV. Topping that, life is constantly interrupted by mandatory advertisements (unless you have the required merits to skip them). Enough merits purchases you a ticket to participating in a reality TV show, which, if you win it, gets you out of the horrible system.
But this isn’t your cuddly competition where the worst thing that can happen to you is that you get kicked off by a mean judge. These guys pressure and medicate to bend you to their will, and make your life miserable if you don’t make the cut. Thankfully, while there’s been depictions of awful reality TV shows aplenty (The Hunger Games, anyone?) in real life we’re still just watching people argue, sing, or bake.
We’ll be able to block people in real life
Black Mirror ruined everyone’s holiday season (in an awesome sort of way) with the acidic Christmas special White Christmas. The story is set in a world where people can connect to the internet via an implant in their eye. Which means, among many other things, that others can block you in real life. Arguing with your parents? One push of a button and all they’ll be able to see of you is your silhouette and a bit of static - without any sound.
This has all sorts of awful implications. Think about a loved one blocking you for life after a petty fight, or blocking being meted out as a punishment (as it is, in shocking fashion, at the end of the episode). With blocking on social media and online services already rife, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to see this as a natural continuation, especially when we’ll all be wearing something akin to Google Glasses.
Our memories will be re-watchable anytime
Imagine a world where all of your memories are recorded by an implant in your mind. Given our horrible propensity to obsess over social media when we shouldn’t, we’d likely spend quite a bit of our time replaying bad memories. This is what happens in The Entire History Of You, in which a marriage falls apart under the pressure of constantly relived jealousy. The concept isn’t too dissimilar to the eye implant idea in White Christmas, and as we mentioned, both remind us of Google Glasses, with which you would be easily able to record your life and play it back to yourself.
There’s also a company working on an eyeball-shaped camera that can record your life. However, you’d have to have one of your eyeballs removed to have it installed and we can’t imagine many will take that up eagerly, even when it does become available.
Prison won’t quite be the same thing
What if, thanks to digital simulations, you were able to make a criminal live through the experience of their victim? Sounds rather twisted, right? Yet it’s the premise of White Bear. Every day, a prisoner’s memory is wiped, as a mix of simulations and playacting from volunteers contributes to them reliving a similar experience to that of the victim of their crime.
There’s definitely an element of shaming here which resonates with current culture on social media (the actor-volunteers in the simulation are there to gawk, and they film the whole thing on their smartphones). But while the idea of a new criminal system is captivating and chilling stuff, we’re not sure that it would ever happen. Sounds like it’d cost a lot more than just leaving someone in prison, right?
And then, um, there’s that pig thing
We weren’t going to mention it but… hey, it’s too good to leave out. The first episode of Black Mirror, titled National Anthem is all about a Prime Minister being blackmailed into doing not-so-polite things to a pig on live TV. This was broadcast in 2011. Rather freakily, in 2015, the biography Call Me Dave alleged that David Cameron had also done not-so-polite things to a pig while at university. Ahem. We’ve got our fingers crossed that this is not a sign that all of Black Mirror’s predictions are fated to come true.
Black Mirror season 3 comes to Netflix on Friday 21st October
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