he hugely popular Netflix series examines our relationship with technology in an unnerving manner, constantly doling out reminders that the distance between our current reality and the one shown in the series is not so far.
While we’re not yet at the stage of transferring our consciousnesses to different brains, there have been a number of eerie developments bringing our lives even closer to the world of Black Mirror.
Talking to the dead bots
In season two’s ‘Be Right Back’ a grieving widow gets comfort from an android version of her late husband created from gathering his online data. The episode reveals the eventual painful results of stopping someone from grieving properly after a death and could serve as a warning for a number of similar bots being created by scientists in real life.
MIT is using a person’s digital archive to create an “augmented eternity” AI program from artificial neural networks that can understand language patterns and process new information. This allows the digital version of the person to evolve and be able to express opinions on current events.
Eugenia Kuyda of Russian startup Luka has already created a realistic memorial chatbot of her best friend, who had been killed in a car accident.
Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robots bear a striking resemblance to Black Mirror’s dog-like bots seen in the season four episode called ‘Metal Head.’
The episode depicts a woman desperately trying to escape a pack of terrifying, killer robot dogs which hunt humans using tracking devices. It raises uncomfortable questions about the future of controlling similar robots and AI.
SpotMini is said to be available commercially this year.
China’s social ranking
China’s social credit score system bears ominous similarities to the world seen in the third season episode ‘Nosedive.’ It features a society in which people rate each other in their daily reactions with one to five stars. Their social rating is public and can damage a person’s status in society, as well as their ability to access good accommodation and transport.
China plans to have all its citizens ranked on its social credit system by 2020. People are judged on behaviors from smoking to bad driving, and can be rewarded and punished based on their ranking. Penalties include restricting ability to purchase air travel, reducing internet speeds and banning access to restaurants.
Autonomous Drone Insects
In Black Mirror’s season three episode, ‘Hated in the Nation,’ the British government unleashes swarms of Autonomous Drone Insects, or ADIs, to act as replacements for the dying bee populations. The tiny drones can replicate themselves and are secretly used to conduct facial recognition surveillance on the population. They are also hacked and start to kill people by burrowing into their ear.
Now Japan has created its own insect-sized drones that are able to pollinate using horse hair and ionic sticky gel. Here’s hoping they don’t decide to turn them into a murderous, swarming spy army.
Autonomous pizza delivery vehicles
Dominos and Pizza Hut are both working on autonomous vehicles to deliver pizza, bringing us one step closer to our Black Mirror futures. The series featured a self-driving pizza delivery truck which hit a pedestrian in season four’s ‘Crocodile’ episode.
When Pizza Hut announced its plans at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Black Mirror recognised the similarities and tweeted, “We know how this goes.”