If you haven’t seen Netflix’s new Black Mirror series you should – it captures the essence of society’s growing concern that technology is getting way out of hand, writes Dorothy Musariri
Whether you’re a Baby Boomer living high on the hog with your defined benefit pension or an entitled, supposedly feckless millennial, or indeed a Generation Xer, stuck in the middle – there is one thing you should all do today if you want to stress-test your views about technology and social media. Tune in (if you’re a Boomer) to the new series of Black Mirror on Netflix, to see visionary creator Charlie Brooker’s caustic, disturbing mirror to society’s social media ills.
Black Mirror, so named after ‘the cold, shiny screens’ of the devices that we’re hooked on, depicts the worst-case-scenarios of how our burgeoning relationship with, and dependence on, technology could develop.
And it’s a bumpy ride. Through a series of six stand-alone stories, Brooker applies weird and wonderful twists to current technological advances. The fourth season of Black Mirror follows the usual model. Each episode tackles the topics we’d rather not think about, such as the potential for social media to do harm, the danger of drones that could create a spy-state, or the questionable ethics behind artificial intelligence.
Although Black Mirror is supposed to be dystopian, some episodes feel eerily familiar. ‘Nosedive’, from the fourth season, is a case in point. It creates a world where each person’s social position is defined by the ‘RateMe’ app, and scores can be submitted in much the same way as we currently rate food delivery services or taxi drivers. ‘Hang the DJ’ exaggerates a modern day phenomenon, taking the premise that today’s dating apps like Tinder and Bumble to terrifying proportions. The characters are seemingly stuck in an endless cycle of meaningless dating experiences, but we later find out that they’re actually sentient computer simulations, all part of an app intended to assess a couple’s compatibility. Similarly dark is ‘USS Callister’, which features a computer game designer who steals his co-workers’ DNA to entrap them in his own twisted virtual reality, where he assumes control of their lives.
Brooker’s Black Mirror is not pleasant to watch, and the horrors it depicts could easily be dismissed as cynical or scaremongering. But while the show is cynical and perhaps even scaremongering, it’s impossible to dismiss. Indeed, a few of the concepts already exist - Uber drivers are deactivated when their ratings fall below 4.6, and drivers can skip low rated customers, too. Companies like Google and Samsung are racing to be the first to develop a contact lens that takes images each time you blink. Our smartphones track our every move.
Another thing that can’t be dismissed is the humanity of the stories - and the reminder of how fragile that can be. Over-blown or not, Black Mirror may be the wakeup call we desperately need.
Dorothy Musariri is a graduate journalist at Spear’s