It’s been a while since we’ve discussed the storylines and technologies in Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi dystopian anthology series, Black Mirror — the show that looks at the dark side of humans and the technologies we create and feels like the opposite of a giant hug. It’s also the show that turned out to be eerily predictive, which is kind of why we need some giant hugs. 

So, let’s take a look at each episode and see which of the futuristic technologies and their insidious uses have, unfortunately, come true.

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

It’s 2011 and it’s the first Black Mirror episode which was…oh. Yeah. This was the episode where a British royal member was kidnapped, and as ransom the kidnappers demanded that the UK prime minister hump a pig on live television. Yes, good ol’ swine-filled politics, told in a literal sense. 

There couldn’t possibly be any real-world reference here that’s literal, right? Wrong, because four years after the episode aired and made everyone collectively cringe (we hope), it came to light that former UK prime minister David Cameron once allegedly stuck his crotch in the mouth of a dead pig to get into some Diners Club at Oxford. 

Word has it that, when they finally let him into this exclusive club, he totally hogged it.

Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, Episode 2)

Ah, the one starring Daniel Kaluuya in a world where people ride bikes for merits and entertainers are either singers or pornstars. Relatable. This one has quite a few present day references. The virtual audience, for instance …

…is pretty much those virtual sports fans experiences we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, the Black Mirror audience probably looks more like how Zuckerberg wants us all to look in his terrifying Metaverse where everyone’s a floating torso because who needs legs anymore, we guess…?

Horizon Worlds/Meta Platforms

Then there’s the whole gamification of everything that boils down to “staring at screens to acquire some sort of made-up merit." Which is basically what cryptocurrency and, more specifically, NFTs are trying to do as they push themselves more and more into the gaming industry and also just every other part of life.

Kotaku headline

 

Bloomberg headline

Lastly, everybody knows that when it comes to making a living online it’s either doing cute little entertaining skits on Instagram or TikTok, creating adult content on OnlyFans, or ranting about how badly you have it on your very own platform like YouTube or wherever the Alex Joneses are doing their stuff today.

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

The episode in which an obsessive Toby Kebbell has some serious trust issues, only made worse by “the grain:” A device that records a person’s memories by reading their audiovisuals. These recordings can then be played back to a person instantly and at any time.

Sort of reminiscent of Google Glass that dropped two years after the show’s first season, and also similar to how we’re really just recording so many details of our lives online … where computers are so great at storing it for all of us (and whoever wants access to it).

”Be Right Back” (Season 2, Episode 1)

It’s 2013, two years later, and the first episode of season two kicks off with a woman who loses her boyfriend, Ash, in a car accident. Sad feelings. She then deals with her grief and loneliness by talking to an online AI product that has been configured to sound exactly like Ash, and it isn’t long before she purchases a full-on AI android that looks exactly like him, too. Things naturally go bananas from there.

And, would you look at that: Today we totally have AI chatbots that can be fed messages and videos of people in order to simulate them, with some folks already using these chatbots to “talk to” their deceased loved ones. It’s a new and somewhat controversial way people are dealing with death and grief, and those android clones that look like humans are probably being thought about in some lab somewhere. 

After all, we already seeing that same idea in Dead People Holograms.

”White Bear” (Season 2, Episode 2)

This one didn’t really focus on any strange new technology. Instead, it dealt with the media and people’s obsession with crime and punishment, as well as our town square/colosseum-like mob mentality that wants both an outlet for outrage and injustice as well as just some old-fashioned entertainment.

Also, it was just a proper homage to a lot of classic horror movies.

”The Waldo Moment” (Season 2, Episode 3)

Look, it’s Waldo everybody! Remember this dirty-mouth little fella?

Yeah…Waldo, who many people back then compared to the likes of current UK prime minister Boris Johnson and, later, twice-impeached former president Donald Trump. Ugh. Dumb stupid Waldo.

On the technology front, the episode has been credited for predicting Animojis— the iPhone-first feature that turns people into the emojis they use in their texts. So, you know, just all-around bad and annoying crap that came out of this one.

”White Christmas” (2014 Special)

Definitely one of the creepier episodes in the series, the special saw the use of yet another Google Glass-type technology called “Z-Eyes” which is, ever so grossly, donned by men who go out and pick up women while their fellow basement dwellers watch them do it live on their monitors. 

Also featured in this short are bluetooth earpieces that make everyone look like they’re an acid-trip away from getting electric shocks probably, and AI technology in home automation. Specifically, “cookies” — a copied consciousness inserted into a home device that’s very much like Amazon Echo (that came out the same year this special dropped).

”Nosedive” (Season 3, Episode 1)

Arguably one of the series’ best episodes, Nosedive introduced a society where everyone rates everyone else on every interaction, ever. It all sounds incredibly exhausting. 

In a way, this episode feels kind of dated already — only because we’re so used to judgment via online social interactions by now and because, well, this came out six years ago when many people thought Instagram would blow over any minute.

The entire world of Nosedive runs on this rating system, and the show makes numerous points of how such socio-economic methods are simply absurd and incredibly damaging to so many individuals.

Today, social media screenings are totally a thing, with many hiring companies perusing our feeds for a myriad of markers that will supposedly determine whether we’d be a “good fit” or indicate whether we’re “social media savvy” or maybe have some “virality.” 

Of course, there are also the reports coming out of China that mentions their upgraded “social credit system” which involves the government rewarding/punishing citizens with social allowances or restrictions based on their loyalty,  trustworthiness, and general associations. Aces.

”Playtest” (Season 3, Episode 2)

In which a guy experiences the cutest AR Whac-A-Mole game ever.

Of course, Whac-A-Mole is just a gateway game here as the real virtual game is a much scarier and more clever VR haunted house:

The closest we have to that today is probably, like, escape rooms in VR:

Games are also being shaped to make them as personalized as possible by focusing on the individuality of players and basically just learning from them. As for augmented reality, Google often features characters on mobile that can be activated and seen in 3D, in your living room.

”Shut Up And Dance” (Season 3, Episode 3)

Another…difficult one to watch. Let’s just say that this episode taps into hacking, online vigilantism, and the acts people commit that they’d do anything to keep secret from everyone else. It’s another entry that’s more of a moral analysis than “Run from the scary technology!” because frankly, nothing is scarier than a desperate human being.

”San Junipero” (Season 3, Episode 4)

Famous for being fabulous and by far the most beautiful episode in the entire series, this is arguably the next step in the Metaverse, no?

”Men Against Fire” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Oof. We’ve forgotten how heavy season 3 was. 

Yeah…we don’t think we need to explain much here. That trailer isn’t exactly subtle. What’s more depressing is that MASS, the AR used by the soldiers here to feed them data of the “roaches” they encounter in real-time is similar to the ARC4, an AR Command Control that operates in the same manner.

Those soldiers’ translators are also now a thing:

”Hated In The Nation” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Fictional robot bees!

Actual robot bees! 

”USS Callister” (Season 4, Episode 1)

Only a year later and season 4 opened with a delightful little Star Trek homage that also features some toxic male ego stuff but gosh, look at the pretty colors everyone!

Luckily none of us can physically get stuck in a game, yet. 

”Arkangel” (Season 4, Episode 2)

An implant that not only tracks your child but will censor everything they see and filter out things like violence, sexual content, or just everyday stressors? Oh boy. Many current Disney-hating Republicans would probably love a version of this for their kids:

Go watch the ending again. It’s the perfect parable.

Also, we have smartwatches now that can detect all kinds of physical stress markers in a person. Not sure if people are tagging their kids like dogs yet.

”Crocodile” (Season 4, Episode 3)

It’s the return of the memory technology we first saw in “The Entire History Of You” back in season 1. 

It wasn’t everyone’s favorite episode, though the self-driving pizza delivery truck did come to fruition. So there’s that.

”Hang The DJ” (Season 4, Episode 4)

Ah, the episode with the bonkers dating app that matches people while promising a high success rate. Huh, wonder if this has some real-world similarity by now…

We call it the cuter version of Tinder.

”Metalhead” (Season 4, Episode 5)

Possibly the most famous of the Black Mirror sci-fi predictions panning out, we now have actual robots that look like dogs but that can also do a boogie:

Of course, these robots have already been used by law enforcement and not so much for their dancing abilities. Oh, and some company wants to put guns on them and sell them to military clients. It’s all just very sad because we much preferred them just dancing for us.

”Black Museum” (Season 4, Episode 6)

Another horror homage, ala Tales from the Crypt, and one of their most self-referential episodes, “Black Museum” looks at society’s macabre fascination with True Crime.

The main technology here is the ability to transfer consciousness from one human to another or even to an object (like a toy monkey). This, of course, conjures up the unfortunate memory of how that Musk guy wants to connect our brains with computers. You know, sometimes it’s like the warnings of sci-fi dystopian TV shows don't even matter to these people.

”Striking Vipers” (Season 5, Episode 1)

The new season made its debut in 2019 with an episode that was slightly reminiscent of “San Junipero” but arguably more jaded as it involves a love triangle and a more ambiguous look at issues like infidelity and VR porn (which is totally a real thing).

Well, not like that, though. Our technology is still somewhat behind, even though we have Haptics that lets players experience physical sensation. Which (sigh) has already led to sexual harrassment issues. We really can't have nice things, can we?

”Smithereens” (Season 5, Episode 2)

More like the police procedural episode “Hated in the Nation,” “Smithereens” looked at the power of social media companies when it comes to our own personal information and how it’s all there for them to use whenever and however they wish.

Also, who's to say your Uber driver won’t pull a fast one on you? You don't know them.

A standout theme here is how social media companies can profile people faster and easier than law enforcement can. The truth, though, is that anyone can do it. Heck, we’ve literally been experiencing the ‘Rise of the Internet Sleuth’ because everything about everyone is on the internet these days, and that means that anyone with internet access can look it up.

ABC News headline

"Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" (Season 5, Episode 3)

Ah yes, that one where Miley Cyrus plays Miley Cyrus playing a Miley Cyrus doll, or something.

That was a strangely upbeat and way more comical episode than we expected. Of course, holograms of famous (and mostly dead) musicians entertaining people at Coachella concerts has been a thing for some time now, and the themes in here were obviously based in part on the #FreeBritney campaign. (Spoiler: She was, in fact, finally freed.)

But the self-aware celebrity AI dolls and the mind cloning are still somewhere in the wings, we guess — waiting to unleash both new technological nightmares and more moral grey swamplands onto all of us.

Zanandi is, unfortunately, on Twitter. Follow her there.

Top Image: Netflix

 

 

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