Black Mirror season four: how realistic is the technology in the new season?

How realistic is the Black Mirror season four technology? Few TV shows demonstrate how devastating technology could be in the future like Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’s Black Mirror.

Since the show moved to Netflix last year for its third installment, the handles on its views of the dystopian world the future could bring are well and truly off.

Is Brooker and Jones’s vision of the technology-enable future what we will endure over the next decades?

We ranked Black Mirror season four’s technology to see how realistic it could be.

*WARNING: major spoilers ahead*

Black Mirror season four technology: ranked

1. USS Callister

Brooker told the Radio Times that the Star Trek-inspired USS Callister is “very dark in places”. 

“It’s got moments of comedy that you maybe wouldn’t have expected a few years ago from Black Mirror.”

Whilst we all know there are elements of space films that became true, such as smartwatches and video calling, how does USS Callister’s tech stack up on the realism scale?

The whole episode is actual an entire simulation, played out by character Robert Daley. After hating his life as a co-founder of an IT company, he creates this simulation of his workplace like his favourite show, Space Fleet. His colleagues are turned into crew members and are punished for the way they treat Daley in real-life.

Could this be possible? It’s far-fetched, but demonstrates how people can get swept up in fantasies, albeit warning how these fantasies could go almost too far with technology.

In fact, companies are working on creating realistic simulations. The UK startup Improbable creates real-life simulations in the cloud used by clients such as the UK’s and US defence departments to plan out strategies. If Improbable’s SpatialOS software went rogue, who knows what could happen. 

Tech possibility: 3/5

2. Hang the DJ

Black Mirror seems particularly interested in Tinder and how the app’s algorithms and swiping motion could have devastating effects in the future.

Its maybe why Hang the DJ feels like a very relevant episode to now. Imagine if Tinder and Siri joined together to run your love life: it insists of matches, insist on locating your perfect partner, arranges dates, and then tells you how long the match will last, sometimes for as little as 12 hours.

It certainly already the mimics the Tinder revolving door, whereby people keep swiping and swiping in desperate search for the one. Though certain aspects of this episode are obviously unreal, this constant technological search for a lover is all too relevant.

Tech possibility: 4/5

3. Metalhead

Stylistically, Metalhead is compelling, as well as Maxine Peake’s performance as Bella trying to run from a killer robotic guard dog.

2017 saw killer robots coming to the fore. In August, 116 leaders in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry banded together to call for the United Nations to ban the development and use of AI weaponry. 

As well, the issue of autonomous weapons was raised at the UN’s Convention of Conventional Weapons in November. Campaign groups, such as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, presented their arguments as to why these weapons should be pre-emptively banned. 

Meanwhile, Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics have pretty much made the robotic dog that terrorises the story’s characters.

With all this in mind, the idea of a killer robotic guard dog doesn’t seem too far off.

Tech possibility: 4/5

4. Crocodile

In the season’s fourth episode, the tech at the centre of Crocodile focuses on an imaged company named Realm Insurance. This is a company which uses a device to dredge the personal memories of witnesses in crimes.

Without revealing too much of the storyline, this alone is a rather harrowing prospect. On the one hand, it would make the work of the police much easier. But, the power to dredge memories is one that is deeply unsettling.

Could it be possible? Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) carried out an experiment on mice with amnesia, using ontogenetic technology to bring back the memories. This is a technique that uses light to activate proteins added to neurons, so the scientists could activate specific neurons associated with a specific memory to bring it back.

We already know that memories can be hacked. This makes the fact memories could be brought back, even scarier.

Tech possibility: 5/5

5. Arkangel

This Jodie Foster-directed episode centres around the premise of monitoring all your child’s activities through a tablet. An implant allows the mother to view through her child’s eyes, track her location and put age restrictions of scenes. 

Following the recent discussions over YouTube and the thousands of weird, disturbing videos aimed at children on the platform, many parents may be only too happy to be able to control the types of content their child is seeing in such an easy way. 

As well, over the past few years we’ve had apps such which allow you to keep an eye your children’s devices and your friends’ activities. You can even track a cheating spouse too.  

Whilst we can already follow movements of our loved ones using smartphones and technologies, being able to see through their eyes is a bit further into the future.

Tech possibility: 2/5

6. Black Museum

The final episode in the season, is a difficult one. If you’ve enjoyed Black Mirror’s previous three seasons then you’ll be looking forward to all the easter eggs in Black Museum. Though that might be all you enjoy, with three twisted mini-stories taking centre stage in the episode.

One element of technology in the episode is an implant that allows doctors two feel the pain of their patients, so they can diagnose them faster. This works for a while before going horribly wrong, when the doctor actually enjoys the immense pain he is feeling.

Whilst this would solve problems, such as Yentl Syndrome, which sees women treated differently than men when diagnosing heart disease, its pretty unlikely for the foreseeable future.

The second element focuses on a husband whose wife is in a coma having her consciousness transferred into his head. He gets sick of having someone in his head all the time, and finds a new partner who doesn’t enjoy the arrangement for obvious reasons.

The final tech element is the most disturbing. A computer image of a former death-row prisoner, who can still feel pain, is the main attraction of the museum, and visitors can pay extra to shock the prisoner for longer.

Thankfully, this tech seems pretty far-fetched for now, so it can stay confined to Brooker’s and Jones’s dystopian TV series.

Tech possibility: 1/5

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