“Black Mirror”: A window into the reality of the future

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Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers and information regarding the Netflix phenomenon “Black Mirror.”

Upon watching an episode of “Black Mirror,” there are many different reactions people have. Fear, despair and sadness, just to name a few. However, a few of the episodes leave viewers with feelings of hope and introspection. I think the producers and directors of the show do a great job of showing the many sides of every story. While some may say that the realities presented are too far fetched and pessimistic, I think the show succeeds in warning us about the dangers and responsibilities of technological innovation. Here are some of my favorite episodes and what they can teach us about the future and ourselves:

1. Season 1, Episode 3: This episode tackles the importance of human memories and communication. As psychology proves, our memories are imperfect systems. While they give us the means to recall formative experiences and learn from our mistakes, this same system can also fall prey to errors such as interference, source amnesia and the misinformation effect. This episode of “Black Mirror” titled “The Entire History of Us” depicts a reality where all humans have a transplant which records all memories like a video and this device also allows a person to play back memories. While this reality may seem to solve the issue of memory errors, it leads to other problems that we may not have expected.

The main character uses his memory transplant in a way that only hurts him. Playing back his memories heightens his paranoia and distrust. He’s given the chance to not only over analyze every aspect of a memory but also live in the past if he wishes to. Despite the power of remembering everything, the character ends up alone and dissatisfied, showing that perfect memory will not lead to a perfect life. Furthermore, imperfection is part of being human. The imperfect is where we grow, love and learn to let go. We don’t need to change all of our imperfections to live a good life.

2. Season 2, Episode 2: In a time when the death penalty is a controversial topic, this episode is especially relevant. It depicts a justice system where a child murderer is forced to repeat a horrible day of persecution over and over again. Each day, the character learns about the horrors of her reality and crimes she has committed. This episode stood out to me, because I found that the justice system lacked sympathy. Though the woman committed heinous crimes, the civilians carried a sense of apathy towards her torture that I found disturbing. As we continue to ask questions about our justice systems and how we can make them better, it’s important to ensure that we don’t let go of our humanity in this process.

3. Season 4, Episode 4: Despite the title, “Hang the DJ” is one of the more uplifting episodes of the series. It shows the intricacies of dating apps and how they could function in the future. I really enjoyed how the episode portrayed love as having a connection with someone that’s worth fighting for. The episode shows two people gaining the courage to “f*** the system” and break free from societal confines. This theme resonated with me because it portrayed how we shouldn’t just passively go through  life. We have immense power as humans, and we can harness that power for good if we put our minds to it. Furthermore, this episode highlights how technology can be used to our advantage, given that we are conscientious about its role in our lives.

 

Contact Ayushi Tandel at atandel ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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