The Morals of Black Mirror, Drinking Game Edition

Be Right Back

A woman (Haley Atwell, Agent Carter) loses her husband (Domhnall Gleeson, so many things. including Force Awakens Last Jedi) in a car accident. A company offers to use his email/social media history to create a replica of her dead husband. First through text, then voice, then finally upgrading her to a robot duplicate. Predictably, it goes well until it doesn’t.

The Tech: Computer programs that can replicate a deceased person’s personality just well enough to reach the Uncanny Valley. Also lifelike androids.

The Moral: Digital recreations of lost loved ones aren’t the best grieving technique– oh, snap, this counts as a “digital recreation of consciousness” episode, doesn’t it… well, guess it’s Suntory Time.

How are we doing with that? There is, thankfully, no current equivalent tech to allow someone to recreate a lost loved one. Just as well, since Tandy of Cloak and Dagger teaches us that the chance to hear the voice of someone you loved again, even a replica, can overwhelm all other concerns, even escape from a reality you know to be false.

White Bear

Premise: A woman wakes up, with no memory of who she is, to find herself hunted by masked killers while the general populace just watches it happen. She receives help from Sense8’s Tuppence Middleton, and hindrance from Spaced’s Michael Smiley.

The Tech: The ability to wipe someone’s memory, albeit not comfortably.

The Moral: It’s kind of a grey area, but I think it’s this. Justice should not be based on inflicting cruelty. That simply adds to the amount of cruelty in the world.

Also maybe the ability to wipe someone’s memory isn’t awesome. Is that “Don’t let your perception of reality be hacked?” It is a bit, isn’t it… okay. Small drink. Small drink.

How are we doing with that? Considering people are screaming at the Prime Minister of Canada online for not violating the court system by extending prison sentences, I’d say “Room for improvement.” And I’m not claiming to be better, since I feel Stanford Rapist Brock Turner hasn’t suffered enough for his crime, and when he lost his appeal I wished he’d gotten a proper prison sentence in the process.

That got dark. My bad. Whisky from Japan will surely improve my mood. Let’s power through the rest of season two!

The Waldo Moment

Premise: A foul-mouthed cartoon bear voiced by a comic struggling with depression ends up running for office when a talk show sketch targeting the conservative candidate gets a little out of hand.

The Tech: …Cartoons? Like… “real-time motion capture” isn’t the wossname for it, ’cause he uses joysticks to control the animation… doesn’t seem like anything that doesn’t exist, ‘sall I’m saying, and it’s not hurting anyone…

The Moral: It’s probably not a good idea to mix entertainment figures and politics.

How are we doing with that? Ship kinda fuckin’ sailed on this one two years back, didn’t it?

I guess the secondary moral is “Our entertainers are often struggling inside, so maybe keep that in mind.” So, I dunno, let’s not try to avoid nominating Rick Sanchez or BoJack Horseman for Congress, yeah?

My mood didn’t improve. God this show is a bummer. Next one’s a Christmas episode, that should help, shouldn’t it? And Jon Hamm is in it! Our first American star!

White Christmas

It didn’t help. Any levity in this episode is a trap. A godsdamn trap.

Premise: Two men (Jon Hamm and some other guy, you have the same IMDB I do) swap stories, one about his old jobs Cyrano-de-Bergeracing lonely nerds and also training “cookie” AIs, and the other about how his girlfriend froze him out of her life and things went to shit, turns out all the stories link up and there’s a twist and that’s what shows like this do.

The Tech: First of all, “cookies.” Cookies are a tiny computer that’s placed in your brain until they absorb enough of your mind to create a digital copy of your consciousness with all of your memory, all of your personality, that thinks it’s you, and wakes up to some serious existential panic when they learn they aren’t you. And often require Jon Hamm to break their spirit so they accept their new circumstances. And for what? So they can run your smarthouse. So you don’t have to teach some non-sentient AI what music to play when you wake up or how you like your toast done. Jesus Christ. Who approved this nightmare factory? This has to be the most horrifying thing they’ve done yet.

And then in the other guy’s story we’re back into computer-in-head territory. For people who find smartphones too cumbersome, why not just have all the functions of a smartphone right in your brain? But instead of memory storage, like in “The Complete History of You,” our “White Christmas” terror is the block function: the tech gives you the option to “block” somebody, meaning neither of you can clearly see or hear the other. This turns out to be a spectacularly bad way to end a domestic disagreement, lives are ruined, people die, all because a woman blocked her boyfriend indefinitely to get out of a difficult conversation.

The Moral: We’ve got a two-fer on this one and goddamn it. One is “We would misuse digital consciousness so badly” and the other is “Do not let people hack your perception of reality,” and that’s both the “drink” morals and I’m starting to have some regrets on this.

How are we doing with that? Well internet trolls are going to make people give the “block” function some thought but we’re well away from either being a risk.

And hey… references down the road say that cookies are granted human rights, so they can’t be tortured into being sentient Alexas. If you buy into the idea that all, or at least many, Black Mirror episodes take place in one world. They can’t, I mean they can’t, there are several dystopias that do not overlap, but it’s enough to let me believe in the spinoff show I want to see: the legal team that makes so many of these tech advancements illegal. Not-Jon-Hamm is getting acquited thanks to temporary insanity brought on by the block function and he and Jon Hamm are gonna be part of a class action lawsuit, ’cause you can’t seal someone off from all human contact, you can’t, we are herd animals and that is a huge rights violation, and my glass is empty, meet you on the next page.

Next Page: Season three. This is America*. Watch how you techin’ now.

(*Partly)

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