Before reading further, Stacker is obliged to give readers a spoiler alert. This slideshow has spoilers for episodes from every season of "Black Mirror," so those who haven't caught up on the series should sit down and watch the episodes before continuing this slideshow.
"Black Mirror" is a dystopian science fiction TV show. Every episode tells a different story of a not-so-far-off future where technology has gotten a little out of hand, creating terrifying scenarios. While storylines in some episodes seem far-fetched (e.g., being trapped in a time loop as punishment), the premises in other episodes are eerily realistic. Some more realistic episodes include technologies or dystopian futures that are either already in existence or currently in the works. The show is also breaking new ground in its technology. The "Black Mirror" film-length piece "Bandersnatch" was a groundbreaking interactive episode that functioned like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.
This slideshow pulls together 10 times "Black Mirror" has mirrored real life, whether it's something that's somewhat of a novelty and still on the way like self-driving pizza delivery vans, something that's in progress like a robot bee that will save the world's food systems, or something that's already in place like China's social monitoring program in the style of Nosedive's ranking system. For each episode, readers will get a brief overview of what happened, what technology or science exists today that relates to the episode, and how it could potentially affect the future of society.
Read on to learn more about how “Black Mirror” has mirrored real life.
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“Nosedive” tells the story of Lacey, a social girl living in a social world, where everyone has a rating between zero and five that determines a variety of things—like whether they get a job, what kind of car they rent, what events they go to, and even who their friends are. In China, this dystopian world isn’t just a story. Citizens are involuntarily enrolled in a social credit system that tracks their behavior, and if it’s bad, they can suffer the consequences—like being unable to own pets, not being allowed to travel, or not meeting that dream partner from a dating app that displays users’ social credit scores.
The premise of this episode is not new—webcams have been hackable and watchable for a while now, plus spam emails and messages from nefarious characters (to sometimes equally nefarious characters) are just as commonplace. But "Shut Up and Dance" gives us a terrifying look into the future, showing what these vulnerabilities could eventually become.
Keeping children safe is generally a parent's top priority, and some believe that the best way to do this is by tracking your child—something "Arkangel" does by implanting a chip into a kid to track where they are, monitor what they're doing, and pixelate images considered distressing. Jiobit does almost the same thing—it allows a parent to connect a tracking tag to some part of their child's clothing to continually keep tabs on their whereabouts through an app. Thankfully it's no implant, at least not yet—but the idea is not far off; some companies already microchip their employees.
What would you do if you could physically experience other peoples' pain? In "Black Museum," the character Dr. Peter Dawson gets a neurological implant allowing him to do so, eventually leading to his character finding pleasure in pain and murdering a homeless man. In real life, Dr. Joel Salinas does feel his patients' pain—just without an implant. He has a condition called mirror-touch synesthesia, where his brain mimics the symptoms of anyone he sees who is in pain or touching something.
Characters in this episode can rewatch every moment of their lives through implants that record everything they see—which, at first, seems especially helpful in arguments. While the technology usage in the show is crumbling, it's growing in the real world. Samsung has patented a contact lens that can live stream what wearers look at and take pictures when they blink. All the information is streamed to a smartphone.
Imagine a future world with no real bees, a time when robots are responsible for pollination to keep our crops alive. "Hated in the Nation" tells about swarms of hacked robotic bees that murder people. Harvard has already developed the technology: The RoboBee can fly on its own, dive into water, and will eventually be able to pollinate plants—all crime-free, though.
The carnage in "Crocodile" started relatively simply—with somebody getting hit by a self-driving pizza delivery truck. Starting in 2020, Domino's Pizza will have an autonomous Ford pizza delivery van on the road.
Forget controllers, screens, and consoles; "Striking Vipers" allowed players to play using only their brains—which is what BrainNet, a Tetris-like game where people play together with their minds, is attempting to emulate (minus the unique relationships). Another difference between "Striking Vipers" and BrainNet? BrainNet allows three simultaneous players.
In this episode, a humanoid robot tries to avoid death. Hanson Robotics has an entire line of lifelike robots, including ones that learn a person's history through social media and memories so it can emulate them, just like Ash's duplicate in the episode. There are currently chatbots that can mimic people and even robot news anchors in Japan.
Miley Cyrus herself has said that this episode of "Black Mirror" is a twisted duplicate of her life. Ashley O's growing distaste of her pop star lifestyle is a similar path that Cyrus took when she shed her Hannah Montana persona for an edgier version of herself. Granted, no one has tried to put Cyrus into a coma and robotize her voice…yet.