Originally posted on makeuseof.
Black Mirror is equal parts wonder and terror. It’s gripping, but what real-world tech did Black Mirror predict?
Technology is ever-advancing, and as exciting as that is, it can also be a bit scary. Technological strides are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, tech helps people. On the other, once the tech is out there, intent becomes irrelevant.
One show above all others examines how corruptible technology can be: Black Mirror. Many of its episodes feature “what if” scenarios on seemingly great inventions, typically with dark and disturbing results. So, which real-life technology did Black Mirror predict? And how are we using it now?
1. Robot Dogs
Boston Dynamics is behind the innovative robot dogs. They named their creation Spot and gave it 3D vision and 17 joints to help with its movement. The “dog” is under three feet tall, can effectively avoid obstacles, and is built to withstand dusty and wet environments.
It can open doors, do backflips, climb stairs, carry payloads, and more. Boston Dynamics hopes their invention can help with public safety, construction projects, mining, oil and gas, power, and utilities. They don’t even exclude Cirque de Soleil from Spot’s long list of potential implementations.
Robo-dogs of a more terrifying variety made an appearance in Black Mirror’s episode “Metalhead,” aired in December 2017.
2. Robot Bees
The Harvard Microrobotics Lab has poured decades of work into its robot bees, aptly naming their invention RoboBee.
RoboBee has two pairs of wings and, in reality, resembles a dragonfly more than it does a bee. It has solar cells and an electronics panel and is capable of untethered flight.
It’s a feat in micro-robotics with world-changing capabilities. It aims to find work in various fields, including medical devices and consumer electronics. It can help with crop pollination, search and rescue missions, surveillance, and even high-resolution weather, climate, and environmental monitoring.
Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” episode aired in October 2016 and featured robot bees used for nefarious purposes.
3. A Social Credit Rating System
China’s infamous “Social Credit” system rates citizens based on their behavior, responsibility level, and trustworthiness. If you get caught littering, jaywalking, or even being a public nuisance, your score worsens. The more social credit you lose, the more your life is affected.
A poor social score may lead to you not being able to book a train ticket or a flight or even get your eligibility for a mortgage revoked. That’s eerily reminiscent of Black Mirror’s “Nosedive” episode that aired in October 2016.
4. Autonomous Pizza Delivery
Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s, some of the most well-known pizza places, are working towards providing their customers with automated pizza delivery services. They’re partnering with companies like Toyota and Ford and the robotics company Nuro to craft an autonomous vehicle to be used for pizza delivery.
Naturally, the driverless vehicle has many potential uses. Like, package drop-offs, rideshare, and even a mobile store.
As of April 2021, Domino’s has launched an autonomous pizza-delivery service in Houston, Texas, in the US. It’s similar to the service seen in Black Mirror’s “Crocodile” episode from December 2017.
5. A Robot Companion for Kids
Sometimes finding friends can be a challenge, especially if you’re a shy kid. So parents are often encouraged to help their children combat that shyness by having them open up to one of their toys. And, until now, plush toys have tended to occupy the role of listener and friend. Today, kids can get Moxie, the robot companion for kids.
Embodied developed Moxie to help kids engage in playtime, have a conversation (yes, it talks back, but only in English), play games with it, or read aloud while Moxie listens. The robot assistant moves about, spreads its “arms,” and has an animated face screen. It’s outrageously expensive as of now, but if it’s not, would you consider getting it for your kid?
The robot assistant that acts as a friend to your child is much like the one seen in Black Mirror’s “Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too” episode that aired in June 2019.
6. A Contact Lense With a Camera
Google is working on a smart contact lens with a built-in camera. The camera would sit at the edge of the lens so it doesn’t interfere with your vision and follow your gaze. It’d allow you to stream what you see to a nearby smartphone or your Google Glass device. Google boasts of the potential the innovation has.
The futuristic tech would work as a bionic eye system, a warning if there’s oncoming traffic at a crosswalk, work as a bionic eye system, help with facial recognition, and assist with telescopic, infrared, and night vision.
But Google isn’t the only company working on a smart contact lens with a built-in camera. Samsung and Sony have also filed patents and announced they’re working on developing the technology. Who will win that race, and would you consider trying it out?
Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You” showed the dark side of having access to technology that records everything you see and has instant playback features. The episode aired in December 2011. The Arkangel episode that aired in December 2017 also explored similar themes.
A Cautionary Tale or a Goal To Work Towards?
Some people view the show Black Mirror as a worst-case scenario cautionary tale and watch it, fearing what might happen in the future.
Others, however, watch the series and dream of all the featured innovations. A world where automated vehicles are the norm and robot bees help with pollination, where you can upload your entire being and soul onto the cloud before you die and live on, where you can have a whole day erased from your memory and spare yourself some torment.
After all, technology isn’t good or bad—that’s determined by who’s using it and for what. For example, drones can do both home deliveries and airstrikes.
As time goes on, it’d be interesting to see if more technological advancements come about, as previously displayed on the show.