Netflix series holds up a “Black Mirror” to our technological lives

Ava Fasciano, Staff Writer

What happens when your phone dies and the screen goes black?  You see how technology has impacted you negatively as you meet eyes with your reflection in a “black mirror.” It’s a dark reflection of our fast-paced society as technology advances and we become ever more reliant on it.  The new season of Black Mirror feeds off of the paranoia that we feel when considering the future and possibility that human development could fail to keep up with algorithms and robots.
Season four of the Netflix series Black Mirror came out on Dec. 29.  The show leaves the audience unsettled and wanting to know more about the mysterious digital worlds introduced by each episode.  Black Mirror is an anthology series, meaning that each of the six episodes in a season have their own story. Each season is more like six short movies, each more compelling than the last.
“Black Mirror is a really intriguing show, since it makes you wonder how advances in technology can change society,” said sophomore Maansi Shroff. “It has really interesting plot lines and can really draw a person in.”
The three Black Mirror episodes from season four that the majority of its viewers believe stand out from the rest are “USS Callister,” “Hang the DJ,” and “Black Museum.” They each convey a particularly powerful and thought-provoking message about technology and its social implications.
The show’s first episode, “USS Callister,” starts the new season off strong.  By day, Robert Daly is a nerdy, underappreciated CTO of a video game company. The audience pities him. By night, Daly taps into a virtual world inspired by his favorite childhood series, a show in a similar vein to Star Trek, where he is the captain of the spaceship “USS Callister.” He collects his coworkers’ DNA to clone them into this alternate universe, where he can control and punish them for their mistreatment of him in the real world.  However, the members of the crew of his fleet are not just programs: they’re autonomous simulated consciousnesses with all the sophistication and physical sensation of real humans.  The episode makes a point about how technology enables people’s worst, most self-absorbed fantasies to be carried out with no safeguards. It also explores themes of toxic masculinity and the male power complex.  It has such a creative and unique plot line that “USS Callister” is being considered to be created into an independent television series.
“‘USS Callister’ really stands out because it makes you think about what draws the line between a human and an artificial simulation,” said sophomore Nick Chase.
The episode “Hang the DJ” portrays an online dating method of the near future, with a mind blowing twist.  The dating sites people use today, like Tinder or Bumble, allow users to have total control over who they want to date and who they want to block: an ideal system where attraction is mutual, but a perfect match is rare. This episode demonstrates a different take on online dating where an advanced computer algorithm determines who gets paired up and for how long. Some relationships last twelve hours, and some last five years. The system continues to create matches until a user is matched with their guaranteed soulmate. The episode highlights the idea that true love isn’t just about compatibility. What really matters is self-sacrifice and giving up everything to be with the person you love.
Last but not least, “Black Museum” concludes season four with a bang. It focuses on a young woman who comes across the “Black Museum” while waiting for her car to charge.  The museum contains technological artifacts from past episodes, and focuses on banned devices that ruined lives when they were legal, including a doctor’s tool that allowed him to feel his patients pain as a quick diagnosing method, a brain implant that allowed a man to share his consciousness with his comatose wife, and a digital imprint of a criminal that museum visitors can electrocute for their own sick pleasure.
Every piece of technology exhibited in the Black Museum has caused suffering. They were developed for constructive purposes, but backfired and ruined lives. This episode emphasizes the show’s core message: that the never-ending loop of new innovations will continue to promote hate and cause destruction.
Is it possible that the future of humanity will be taken over by the computers we once created? Are you worried? Black Mirror thinks you should be.