Black Mirror is a prescient, dark film series that manages to emulate & crack our increasingly shock resistant touchscreen selves and confront us with our immediate no opt-out, surveillance drenched future existence.
First season is like one of those badly needed cautionary tales collections to read to your children naturally Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace…
Recently, Evgeny Morozov, one of the most vehement critics of Silicon Valley data obesity and orgiastic Internet-o-centrism, was searching for a variant of the climate change narrative as an antidote to an industry with giant appetites for “more information = always better”. In the post-Snowden era, we may have to search for a potent and frightful vision able to invite more regulation to the excesses of algocapitalism, before the next upstream and downstream data collection routine will bulk-storage us all for further processing.
Couldn’t believe it myself (thx thx yottabyte-thx darling Julia S. for recommending Black Mirror to me!) that the narrative and imagistic contours of a dark technologic possibilities and proclivities lies within our grasp, and it’s in a British sci-fi Black Mirror series, I swear! I’ve been an old fan of Twilight Zone, Tales of the Unexpected and G J Ballard Cape Canaveral short stories – but I really yearned for a new take on present third millennium prospects.
Please don’t consider Black Mirror just a sombre fable of the distant and improbable future, but replay and appreciate it as a raw recording of the proteic and ambivalent potentialities built-in all arround us today, a dark reboot of technological innovation and mephistophelic creativity.
In a sense, the huge ANT mail order catalogue of gizmos and meticulous NSA slides is just the current harvest disclosing what kind of organ traffic is going on & what are the bones & viscera implants available and for what price.
The myriad implants, backdoors and exploits are all inbuilt vulnerabilities that somehow reanimate our smartphones, tablets and laptops in obnoxious ways against their owners (also see Cory Doctorow funerary notice about DRM implementation into HTML5 after W3C) producing an eerie remote-controlled revolt of the objects, a devious revenge of our tools, itself an ancient and important cultural warning meme that sometimes finds a home in science fiction literature and lore. As we now know, all the apparently black, offline, shutdown “dead” screen mirrors, plugged or unplugged, turned to the wall, discharged or not, have a life of their own, enslaved at the distance and able to snitch on us, whenever we lie close enough to interact with them. It’s like the opaque, reflecting surface of the black mirror on the wall that suddenly turns out to be a window into your room and your life. Some people like to be abused, some like to abuse. I think here is where Black Mirror comes in, in that terrifying and consciousness-expanding moment when you realise that your comfortable home is actually an interrogation room.
Apologies for another high treason of high tech blurb eh.. &let’s move on with the series. There is a lot more to these episodes than I teased out so don’t worry about spoiler alerts.
The pilot ep turns out to be an incredible social networks driven political Rube Goldberg engine. At the end of the first really funny and mad episode I really didn’t know who won what. Was it the audience, the voters, the political heads, or the prankster?!
A British Prime Minister (from the future) is being blackmailed into a online, on national TV, dogma reality style – zoophiliac sexual act with a pig… Otherwise an eyecandy, social network princess superstar (definitely modeled on princess D) and royal scion will die. So what are the choices, the party, what does the prime ministers aides say or do? What about his wife or himself?
You’ll be able to breathlessly watch (yeah, Hurray, together with the whole country) how minute hidden decisions inform and move the Twitter & Facebook electorate and how this in turn spills over & animates the political puppets of this mediated script, where the new videocratic populist studio prepares the stage for the most sicko Jackass show on earth.
You wake up surrounded by an extended screen that covers all the walls, 24 hours a day. How do you get rid of all the adverts and constant stream of banners? You don’t. You only need credit bitcoins if you want some respite. The cartoonish, decorative content around you of a country house environment, hides the poor reality of living in a box, eating bio-looking fruits from virtual vending machines (like the Koreans have already access to in their metro) to be able to pedal on your daily cycle – yeah, “work” in this perfectly contained gym world is just that: gym work!
I will dwell only on this aspect of gyms. As more and more of us are living in the cities, and more and more physical work gets outsourced, a lot of our workout goes into gyms, working frantically to stay slim and fit. In a clean energy future, half of the people (the fit) pedal all day long for clean energy and merits – the new currency of this workout planet. Merits, mind you, are really only numbers – you aways have a visible account around showing your exact worth. It’s more like the LEADERBOARDS of the video game industry – and the number is no secrecy, no frigging banking privacy. You are always reminded how much you made and what you can do with your bitcoins. Although your spending value is only online, there is nothing that will change your drab exterior, you’ll only be able to get your avatar or virtual self dressed up. Somehow I feel there was some signature here of The Network – a 70s unmatched movie classic in performative politics, tele- evangelism and live suicidal TV presenters who turn into techno-doom-Prophets.
One last thing – the final scene, the bonus window with a sight for our hero, that gets finally but fatally promoted away from the cycle rooms – is just another simulation. Once high up the ladder in the entertainment hierarchy you get access to a better slightly higher definition view of a perfect mimicked 3d jungle vista.
This episode records, or better replays and dwells on the lingering cognitive foibles and avid obsessions that get somehow amplified through existing technology.
Really feel like gagging the conservative howl over a destroyed marriage and impossible long term relationship (aren’t a majority of us serial monogamists?!). It’s not about family values but readily accessible memory storage the moment when instant access to that memory becomes central or essential. While the advantages of real time replaying top favorite sexual antics might out balance everything else – the mere possibility to focus, to zoom in and over interpret details of our lives and our partners live – doesn’t make it easier at all.
Envy, in-satisfaction, couple boredom get blown up, literally beamed on screen over and over again. The new ability of surveying or looking for hidden patterns, lip syncing reconstruction, out of sight movements – will bring face to face you with the most crushing personal details and failures. The interface for our memories really resembles some multiple window media library. Mental processes are made available under this disguise because we somehow even access them in our heads like this. There is an intrinsic relation btw “choosing” play now, and schizophrenic swapping or selecting memories of loved ones – searching for emotional ammunition or settling for the favorite wet dream. (Although I noticed the brain has some protection against long term storage, even potent biochemical events seem to loose sharpness while other less dominant tend to escape ulterior deletion)
Again a plea perhaps for the idea that we are vulnerable to emotional bugs and cognitive exploits, even as we let go of our data streams, even as we lower our anonymity barriers.
The immediate experience of this episode is very close to the Google Glass offer as well as the imperfect wipe out techniques of Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind.
You’ll actually find on YouTube a pretty convincing mash-up of Google Glass adverts and this final episode of Black Mirror.