"Black Mirror" is a British TV series that plays with ideas about the future of technology. It often features gadgets and systems that seem too wild to be real, but many of them have close parallels to the technologies we use today. Even more chilling, some episodes seem to predict developments in sneaky, spying tech that have come to pass. Here are some key examples:
The "Arkangel" Episode and Parent Monitoring Apps
The episode "Arkangel" features a chip that a mom implants into her daughter to keep an eye on her all the time. This chip allows the mum to see her child's location, block out distressing scenes, monitor her health, and even see what her child sees. It's like the ultimate spy tool for overprotective parents.
Now, we don't have that kind of technology yet, but we do have parent monitoring apps. These are apps that parents instal on their kids' phones and tablets to track their online activities. They can monitor screen time, block inappropriate content, and even track the physical location of their children. These tools raise similar ethical issues as the tech shown in "Arkangel," with debates about how much parents should control and how much privacy kids should have.
The "White Christmas" Episode and Online Data Collection
In the "White Christmas" episode, one of the technologies featured is a 'cookie' – a digital clone of a person's consciousness. This cookie is used to run smart homes, adjusting everything from lighting to temperature based on the original person's preferences.
While we don't have a way to clone a person's consciousness, we do have tech that collects enormous amounts of personal data. Companies use this data to create virtual profiles that predict behaviour and preferences, similar to how the 'cookie' was used in the episode. In addition, smart home devices like Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and Apple's Siri are always listening and learning more about us to improve their performance.
The "Nosedive" Episode and Social Media Spying
"Nosedive" presents a future where every social interaction gets a rating that contributes to an overall score. This score then affects your status in society, determining everything from your job prospects to your social circle.
This kind of societal ranking isn't a reality in most places, but there are similarities in our world. Take China's Social Credit System, for instance, which assigns scores to citizens based on their behaviour. Then there's social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter collect huge amounts of data on our actions, interactions, and even our moods. This data is used for targeted advertising, shaping our online experiences based on our behaviour.
The "Hated in the Nation" Episode and Hackable Devices
The episode "Hated in the Nation" features robotic bees that get hijacked and used as weapons. This shows the dangers of interconnected technologies that can be exploited for harmful purposes.
In the real world, we're seeing an explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Everything from our fridges to our security cameras is connected to the Internet. This brings many benefits but also potential risks. If these devices aren't secured properly, they could be hacked and used for nefarious purposes, much like the bees in the episode.
Modern Spyware Technologies
In the current digital age, one of the most prominent real-world parallels to the intrusive technology portrayed in "Black Mirror" is the rise of advanced spyware technologies. Spyware is a type of malicious software that covertly collects information about a user's computer activity, including keystrokes, emails, web browsing history, and even login credentials.
A notable instance is the Pegasus software developed by the Israeli cyber arms firm NSO Group. This highly invasive spyware can turn a smartphone into a 24/7 surveillance device. It can record calls, read text messages, and even activate cameras and microphones for real-time monitoring - a chilling reality that feels ripped from a "Black Mirror" plotline.
Another instance is the rise of stalkerware, software specifically designed for individuals to spy on their partners, often without consent. These programs can log texts, track locations, and even access photos. They bring the dystopian elements of "Black Mirror" into personal relationships, raising serious questions about privacy, consent, and ethical use of technology.
In essence, the "Big Brother" society that many "Black Mirror" episodes hint at is not far from reality. Today's spyware technologies are capable of turning our devices into surveillance tools, subtly echoing the eerie, often cautionary tales of the show. So, while "Black Mirror" doesn't predict exact technological advancements, it gives us a peek into potential future scenarios. Many of these scenarios revolve around spying technology, which feels all too real with the kind of tech we're seeing today. It reminds us of the importance of considering the ethical implications as technology continues to evolve.