If Black Mirror taught us anything, it was to be afraid of technology; it can be all-consuming. Only a few months after its existence, ChatGPT is already banned at schools and universities. People are discussing the potential threat AI-driven technologies can pose to humankind. Among such detailed discussions and contemplations, one big question stands looming in the air, “Will AI be the death of us?”
In his book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari compared the last 500 years of exponential growth triggered by the scientific revolution with humankind’s hundreds of thousands of years of steady progress.
We reached the moon about 54 years ago. Today, we speak of possible habitation on Mars. There’s no denying that our accelerating technological progress can have potentially severe consequences. Not to say such growth isn’t necessary or inevitable, but it sure is scary to some extent.
And the ‘revolutionary’ ChatGPT is only a preliminary glimpse of a future heavily run by AI. Netflix’s Black Mirror dropped hints of a dystopian reality where people struggle to cope with high-tech devices as they manipulate and even endanger their lives.
Let’s look at some of the wildest tech devices portrayed in the show, which point towards a really dark future.
1. Recording Implants
Imagine if all humans got implanted with a device that allows you to record all your memories. Basically, you’re recording everything you see. You can re-play it at your leisure and even cast it on screen for others to watch. This device is also a mandatory security check at various public places, like airports. You have to show your past week to get through security. Basically, an implant that’s a middle finger to privacy.
People will be constantly obsessing over their memories, living in the past, over-analysing things that don’t exist. And privacy, LOL. It would only lie with those in authority and power.
2. Programe that artifically clones a deceased person — both virtually and physically — basis their digital footprint and private photos & videos
Losing someone you love is the toughest phase of one’s life. And a machine can never substitute a human being. The first episode of the second season of Black Mirror shows a woman enticed with a technology that allows her to get an artificial clone of her deceased partner. The more content you share with the ever-greedy technology, the more accurately it will mimic the concerned person. You can even get their physical clone.
So ones who’re grieving have an excuse to never move on. But would you ever be able to live with the knowledge that they are not a real person and just a machine? Would you resign to eternal delusion or make the difficult choice to move on?
3. Social Credit System
Just like you and your Uber driver give a rating to one another, imagine a similar concept on a much broader scale. Humans are able to rate one another, and that rating will determine your social upstanding, status, and even your place in society. Your entire worth is reduced to stats regardless of your contexts, experiences, value proposition, or talent.
4. Augmented Reality video games that can blur the concept of living reality
The viral game of PokemonGO would perhaps be the most relatable example of augmented reality games. But it’s only a tipping point of a tech future that could possibly blur the gaming experience with the true, physical reality. Imagine an immersive experience so advanced that you don’t know if what you see is even real or a part of a game.
5. Eye-linking that allows you to stream whatever you’re seeing to somebody else
Do you remember that scene from Kal Ho Naa Ho when Aman advises Rohit how to win Naina’s heart via phone? Imagine that through the lens of really advanced technology. You’re able to stream whatever you see to somebody else, and they can guide you in how to conduct yourself. This essentially means goodbye to real-life conversations. You’d never know what or whom to believe; nothing’s real anymore.
6. A technology that allows you to BLOCK someone in real life
Imagine you’re able to block someone in real life. Like you can actually wipe them out of your existence. They will never be able to see you and vice-versa. If they ever were to cross your paths, all you’d be able to see is a boundary depicting a human being, but you can’t hear them, see them, or even touch them.
Whilst this has become so easy virtually, having something like this in real life would be obnoxious. Humans can become more self-centred and evasive, running away from serious conversations.
7. A microchip implant that can activate ‘parental control’ allowing one to track and censor their child’s vision & audio
Imagine if whatever you do could be watched, heard, or even controlled by your parents, or in fact, anybody who got you implanted. They have complete access to your experiences, and if they become obsessive, they can even deprive you of any real experiences by distressing over the tiniest increase in your stress levels.
We know what happiness feels like because we’ve experienced sadness. We know what joy feels like because we’ve experienced fear. But when one’s life is so sheltered, any amount of happiness would be meaningless and indifferent cos they’ve never suffered. You’d never know what life feels like.
8. Drone Insects
The final episode of the third season of Black Mirror has honeybees mimicking drone insects carrying out the function of pollinating flowers in place of near-extinct bees. But the nanobots get hacked to unleash a killing spree and now people are dying basis a sadistic game on Twitter. You never know when technology gets manipulated to kill you.
9. Virtual Reality Simulation Games
With our fast-paced trajectory of technological growth, it won’t be too far-fetched to imagine we soon might have such advanced and immersive games that’d allow players to feel and experience whatever their gaming avatar feels. Striking Vipers is one such game in a Black Mirror episode where players can meet other people, disguised in their player’s avatar, through its VR kit. And two guys who’re friends in real life become obsessed with having sex with each other in the game.
Imagine if such games become reality, do you think people would care to step out and meet real people? And when they’re sad, wouldn’t the game become an easy escape to dodge real-world problems? Would people prefer to live life or they’d rather just live in a game?
10. A program that keeps matching you with a partner for a fixed period of time until you find your ‘perfect match’
Dating apps are wildly popular now. But imagine a program that only allows you to spend a limited about of time with somebody, regardless of how you feel about them. You may have to stick with somebody you really abhor for a year and have the person you desire for only 36 hours.
In Hang The DJ episode of Black Mirror, partners are trapped in a simulated reality with no memory of their real lives, and they’re supposed to keep jumping from one person to another. Contrary to other episodes, this one has a happy ending. However, it tells a scary story about technology. We don’t want a world where an application has more control over our loneliness and relationship than we ourselves.
Most of us are already living half a life. Mobile phone notifications have already seeped into our conversations in a way never known before. Two people comfortably doom scroll even while they’re together. A world where cutting-edge technology governs our life and relations is not beyond imagination. Perhaps, there comes a time when these futuristic technologies portrayed in Black Mirror begin existing for real. And it’s scary.
Black Mirror is streaming on Netflix. The link is here.