Saturday, March 25, 2017

Black Mirror - The Power of the Not So Distant Future

From Black Mirror Series 1 Episode 1 "The National Anthem"
In the first episode of Black Mirror, "The National Anthem" this show, known for it's science fiction and technology bent isn't beaming up light years into the future. There are no aliens. There is no mysterious unknown future technology. There is no medical innovation.

No, there is YouTube, Twitter, and cable news.

This episode begins with a kidnap and a ransom video in which the Prime Minister is specifically called out in to perform a bizarre sex act,

From there the story takes some unique turns that while absolutely outrageous in some regards are also incrementally believable.

This episode is one that is hard to place in the rating of the episodes (ranked 10 o 13 on my list) because in many ways it lacks some of thsoe compelling factors that make some of the other episodes so great, and in many ways is a little painful to watch at points -- yet, conceptually where this episode has the most power, and really sets the town for the series is that it's all somehow believable.

This episode, like many of the others leaves the viewer with the sense that this could happen, and maybe some time in the not too distant future.

In terms of episodes, and there reliance on technology, some episodes rely on some social change and technology changes (the furthest reaching in my opinion is incidentally the second episode of the series "Fifteen Million Merits") while many episodes are like this one -- it could happen, well, basically today (much like "Shut Up and Dance").

And while the nearer future episodes may lack some of the intrigue of these rendering of the future, in many ways the closest of these types of potential moments and uses of existing technology are striking.

I mention "Shut Up and Dance" as a similar episode from series 3 that uses technological tools that are readily available (computer viruses, cell phones, GPS trackers) to tell a story that could be stolen from tomorrow's news.

From Series 3 episode "Shut Up and Dance." Text messages read "KEEP LOCATION SERVICES ON | KEEP PHONE ON AND CHARGED | wHEN TIME COME'S YOU WILL BE ACTIVATED")
And for even those stories that rely on future technologies that do not exist the concepts themselves are some how believable, the episodes help bridge the gap to explain how these technologies, with all their unintended consequences, might come to be -- often with multiple purposes, including purposes that can be exploited.

This post is part of Black Mirror Week on StrangeCultureBlog. See the list of other posts here.

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