Could the show Black Mirror predict our future?

Nina Smole

Before reading on, I would like to point out that in the article there are some spoilers, so if
you have not watched any episode of Black Mirror and want to be surprised – stop reading! If
you have watched it, and you find the concept of the show as shocking and disturbing as I do,
you are more than welcome to continue reading.
The show Black Mirror was first aired in the UK in 2011 on British television’s
Channel 4. In 2015, Netflix purchased the programme and we can now enjoy all 19 episodes
at any time. Last year they released an interactive film titled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,
which is special because the viewer can decide on the course of the film. However, let’s get
back to the series.
The show is based on our relationship with technology and how it affects our everyday
life. Episodes are standalone and do not relate to one another and are set in an alternative
present or near future. The producer Charlie Brooker wanted to create a show that comments
on modern issues and focuses on humankind’s dependence on technology.
The episode that focuses on the biggest problems we may face in the future and
perhaps are already facing now, is called “Hated in the Nation”. The basic storyline of the
episode is that police detective Karin Parke and her sidekick Blue Coulson are investigating
the mysterious death of journalist Jo Powers, who died after writing a delicate article
criticizing a disabled activist who committed suicide and became the most hated person in
London. She received hate messages on social media and people wishing her dead. Powers
killed herself with a wine bottle and hurt her husband. The next day the rapper Tusk, who has
also been a target of online abuse, for insulting a young fan, is taken to the hospital having
had a seizure. When they get him on an MRI machine, a metal object is pulled out of his brain
and later identified as an Autonomous Drone Insect (ADI). These are artificial substitute bees
developed to counteract a sudden colony collapse disorder in the bee population. Parke and
Coulson visit the company that made and supervise the “bees” to discover they were hacked.
Both victims were part of a Twitter “game” where people could express their hate of someone
by tweeting “#DeathTo”. They watch a video called “Game of Consequences”, where it is
explained that each day the person with most mentions will be killed. Currently, the person
with most mentions is Clara Meades, who posted a photo of herself pretending to urinate on a
war memorial. They take her to a safe house, where they realize the bees are only attacking
Meades, meaning they use facial recognition to locate their victim. We then discover that thegovernment uses the bees for surveillance. When the detectives find a digital manifesto,
which is about forcing people to face consequences without hiding behind cyber anonymity,
they trace the location of the video to discover a disk drive with details of thousands of people
who have used the #DeathTo hashtag. Thinking they will be able to deactivate the ADI
system, they discover the main plan, which is to kill everyone involved in the cyber bullying.
In this way, more than 380,000 people on the list are killed by ADIs.
This episode is amazing because not only are we exposed to the negative effects of
social media and cyber bullying, we see the effect of the bee extinction problem we are facing
right now. The world is experiencing bee extinction, even though we know how important
bees are for the environment. And through the episode we see what the potential “solution” is
– to make artificial robot bees that have more than one function. Besides that, we face a huge
moral dilemma in that our government is surveilling our every move and of course the killing
of almost 400,000 people because of “one mistake”, posting a death wish on Twitter. The
episode makes us question our use of hate speech on social media, where we know we are
anonymous behind our avatars and can say whatever we want to whomever we want. Many
internet bullies would not use their words with such hate if they knew the consequences they
could face. It also makes you question the moral ambiguity of posting an anonymous death
threat online or someone taking the matter into their own hands and taking care of all those
people by making them pay for what they said. There is, of course, also the question of having
an artificial substitute that operates through technology and can be hacked into and

I think not only the episode “Hated in the Nation”, but also the whole concept of the show
Black Mirror, could be a warning to all of us. Many episodes depict the dark side of
technology and how it dominates our minds. It is set in the future and is, in a way, science
fiction, but it is also produced in a way we can recognize as our future lives if we let
technology and science affect us as human beings. If you watch every episode carefully, you
see it is not just another sci-fi futuristic drama but an utterly disturbing and predictive show
about human nature. It should make us question everything and think about our reality and
our future.