Science fiction has foreseen the shape the world will take in many ways. The literary world has been responsible for inspiring the future of humanity and nurturing its imagination. We recall the fantastic stories by Jules Verne, which fed our scientific curiosity and motivated us to travel to the moon and uncover the secrets of the Universe. Even films have played a pivotal part in this, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek have inspired the creation of many gadgets we use on a daily basis. Their stories portray a prosperous future where technology has an emblematic role in fulfilling all of our needs.
But there's a side to sci-fi that is not as positive and could counteract the utopian advances proposed by Jules Verne. In the same way 1984 became a reading manual for North Korea's dictatorship, there are many works that see technological innovations and machines as a threat.
One of the best and most recent examples is the acclaimed BBC series Black Mirror. Each episode tells a different story in which technology plays a negative role and distorts the reality we're living in today.
Dylan Hendricks, an expert in futurism, analyzed some of the series' episodes and talked about how probable it is for its scenarios to come true. The answers are frightening, but they also show the rotten world we're living in.
Radical Social Activists – “Shut up and Dance”
This episode ranks among the best of the series and is also the most realistic. It tells the story of a boy who's threatened by a group of hackers that are plotting a master plan to reveal the crimes and scams of many individuals. More than a prediction, the series shows a hidden face of reality and gives a warning to the audience. Although there haven't been cases as extreme as the ones in the show, there are many activists who leak Internet users' information to unveil their darker secrets. This is something that could inspire other programmers to create more complex devices to expose the decadence of society.
Date assistant – “White Christmas”
The Christmas Special shows three different stories. One of them is about a man who uses an optical and auditive gadget to offer instructions to a shy boy who wants to talk to women. It's a frightening episode in which, basically, the human element of emotional relationships disappears. According to Hendrick, this idea is quite possible, so in the future there might be people functioning according to other's instructions.
The Irreverent Politician – “The Waldo Moment”
The most alarming prediction has already come to fruition: a character from the show business, in this case, Waldo, starts a political career out of hatred. He has no idea of how to govern and only humiliates those who are seriously interested in saving the country. Sounds familiar? Donald Trump used the same strategies.
Of course, this wasn't a technological aspect per se, but it shows how social media and a taste for the ironic and absurd can turn an animated bear, or a reality celebrity, into a political figure.
Rating People – “Nosedive”
The first episode of the third season showed something many have come to fear: the scrutiny and evaluation of people. This society functions thanks to an app where the citizens can rate others with stars. Those with a high score have benefits and receive a special treatment. With every like and approval, they scale the social ladder and into the echelons of success.
Nowadays, we can evaluate drivers and restaurants, so this system doesn't seem so far fetched. In China, there's already a software that evaluates the credit behavior of their users and those with major financial activities and efficient payments receive special benefits.
The Virtual Clone of a Deceased Person – “Be Right Back”
In one of the most emotional episodes of the series, a widow hires the services of a company to create a clone of her departed husband by compiling, analyzing, and recreating his online performance and registries. Today, we have mail and messenger services like Crystal that analyze its users to create natural conversations. According to Hendricks, in a future, it'll be possible to customize it to talk to "dead people."
The world that presents Black Mirror doesn't feel as distant as ours. The problem here is that, as a source of inspiration, it serves as a warning that this unrelenting speed of technology has to be checked. Perhaps Verne was wrong, we've reached a point of no return where we will live in a dystopian house of horrors.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards