Black Mirror

black mirrorHow had I never seen this show before? It combines dark psychological twists with intriguing exploration of the philosophical issues associated with the current (and near-future) state of cyber-tech and its potential impact on the human experience.  A week ago I had never heard of the show; I have now binge watched every episode on Netflix, and am desperate for more.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because the twists are the thing, but I would like to just give a brief synopsis of the issues each episode addresses.  But you have to watch them yourselves.  And quickly.  So great, so fascinating.  A perfect application of philosophy in a contemporary context:

The National Anthem

A compelling if uncomfortable look at the impact of instantaneous exposure to mass public opinion via platforms like Twitter and Facebook in the specific context of politics.  With the right skills and an internet connection, a virtual nobody can anonymously hold the most powerful world leader hostage and make him his puppet.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Fifteen Million Merits

Each of the episodes addresses multiple themes at once, and I don’t mean to oversimplify.  For me, this one focused on the dangers of virtual reality and how, because of our “devices,” we devote so much of our time and energy to mindless entertainment and things that have no substance.  If we take a second, we can all see it, and are all somewhat disgusted by it, but we can’t stop.  Also addresses fame and how technology provides access to fame and how it feels like fame is something bestowed on some based not on talent but on the ability to appeal to a lowest common denominator.  If you liked/were frightened by Fahrenheit 451, or are annoyed by friends/family members who treat video games and other internet distractions like they are more “real”/significant than actual reality, this ones for you.

The Entire History of You

Fascinating look at the impact of technology on relationships.  Through Facebook and Instagram and other platforms, we are voluntarily living our lives in a self-imposed fish bowl.  Combine that with surveillance technology, we are approaching a point where almost everything we experience is recordable and storeable.  It’s not unfathomable that our entire experience, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, could be recorded and, if desired, reviewed and played back over and over again.  But is that even desirable?  When it includes the good and the bad?  Do we want to remember exactly what someone said in a fight, or is it better to let some things go?  And what if we had the ability to access other people’s observations/experiences/recordings?  Very compelling stuff; maybe my favorite episode.

Be Right Back

A modern twist on the idea of “self” and whether it is preservable.  Our bodies can’t live forever, but what if technology made it so that our minds (or some watered down version) could exist forever?  And if you could then add back a body of sorts with that version of self, would you?  What makes us who we are?  How much of ourselves are we really putting out there, through Facebook, texts, phone calls, emails?  If it’s all out there and being collected, how much of “us” is it?  This was maybe the most disturbing episode.  But still very good.

White Bear

This one dealt with our collective obsession with violence and tendency to passively observe and record but not do anything to stop it.  It reminded me of a study we looked at in law school where a violent crime would be happening right outside a heavily populated grouping of apartment buildings and not only would no one stop it, they wouldn’t even call the police.  We talked about the psychology of the mob mentality or why passivity takes over in that context.  It also reminds me of all these Youtube videos you’ll see of high school fights or even cops beating people up.  50 people standing around with their cell phones taping the whole thing and laughing and providing comments; no one stepping in to do anything about it.  On a different level, it also addresses alternatives for punishing criminals outside of the traditional incarceration approach; let the punishment fit the crime,

The Waldo Moment

Politics again.  On one level, not even just having to do with technology but just a general observation on how the current state of politics is so exasperating that the public would almost rather vote for a fictional character than any of the blowhard, egotistical idiots who actually run.  Politics have become such a joke that maybe we should just turn it over to comedians.  At least we would be entertained.

White Christmas

Don’t even want to get into it the twists were so good.  But it had Jon Hamm, and he was DOPE!  The interaction of technology and the mind and whether technology could make the mind extractable.  Copyable?  Also a fascinating revisiting of the concept of “blocking” someone.  It’s awful, but you wonder if it’s possible, and you think of the people you’d like to do it to.

I want more!  So good.  Every one disturbing and entertaining and thought-provoking.  And British, if that strikes your fancy.  Heard a rumor there’s a third series with 12 more episodes coming.  Can’t wait!  Here’s a link to slightly more synopsis if you don’t mind spoilers or if my analysis left you wanting.



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