Libraries, Archives, Technology, Impending Doom
“The future is not a blank page; and neither is it an open book.” – Lewis Mumford
When the daily news takes on a particularly grim sheen it can be oddly comforting to seek the escapism provided by dystopian science fiction. After all, such works allow one to momentarily find relief in the idea that “sure, things are bad, but they aren’t that bad!”
Well, at least not yet.
Granted, dystopian works tend to do a rather muddled job of explaining what happened in the interim between the present and the dark future being portrayed. Certainly, there are references to the rise of menacing political forces, nostalgic remembrances of how things once were, and allusions to violent conflicts – but usually dystopian works do not dwell for too long on the daily minutiae that went into constructing these bleak futures. All of which underscores a rather troublesome question, namely: if you were living in the glossed over prologue of a dystopia, would you know it? Or, are the steel seeds of dystopia already so deeply planted and fertilized in the ground around you that you can see yourself waking up tomorrow and finding yourself living in a bleak new world?
It seems somewhat awkward to consider the television program Black Mirror, which has now returned for a third season on Netflix, as a work of dystopian science fiction. That would be too reductive. The program focuses on the human romance with technology and the ways in which this relationship, often, does not work out as hoped. And though some episodes are clearly set several decades in the future, some episodes could just as easily be set today – or yesterday, for that matter. What Black Mirror primarily presents are preludes to dystopias (along with a few actual dystopias), these are snapshots along the route that leads to catastrophe, but not necessarily explorations of the catastrophe itself. In many ways this is what allows Black Mirror to be so disturbingly bleak. Works of dystopian fiction are lousy with the tales of bold and bedraggled rebels fighting against the darkness, but Black Mirror presents the stories of societies slowly but steadily moving closer to that darkness.
As with its first two seasons (and the Christmas Special), Black Mirror functions best as a sort of conversation starter. In a culture where even mild criticism of technology gets one lambasted as a Luddite, Black Mirror provides a way for people to give voice to their fears and anxieties about technological society without having to actually come out and say “I think that [tech company] is actually terrible” or “I’m worried that [tech/governmental entity] is gathering too much information on us” or “I feel alone and scared much of the time.” Nevertheless, it can be useful to try and tease out some of the larger issues and questions that the season stirs up – and to try to place them within the already existing discourse that critically engages with matters of media, technology, and society.
Most of what Black Mirror presents does not feel particularly far-fetched (emphasis on “most”), the warning is coming from inside your home, and the concerns being raised should not simply be shrugged off as being the apocalyptic romanticism of Charlie Brooker (the show’s creator). Indeed, credit should be given where it is due: “The Waldo Moment” (Season 2, Episode 3) did a better job predicting the results of the Brexit vote and the 2016 US Presidential Election than most professional pollsters or political operatives.
Black Mirror is a show to which it is worth devoting sustained consideration. After all, the easiest way for a prelude to dystopia to turn into an actual dystopia is for people to not be paying attention.
[A Brief Digression]
Many episodes of Black Mirror derive their full force from surprising the audience in one way or another. Granted, not all of the episodes rely on twist endings, and in some of the episodes it’s fairly easy to predict the ending based on the first two minutes. Nevertheless, to really dig into the show it is necessary to ruminate upon certain plot details as well as the ways in which episodes end. Thus, let it be stated clearly: what follows in this piece is based upon the assumption that the reader (that’s you) either: has already seen the episodes being discussed, or does not mind having the details revealed in advanced.
In other words: this is your spoiler warning.
Note, this is a discussion of Season 3 of Black Mirror. For a consideration of Seasons 1 and 2 please see: A Dark and Warped Reflection.
“These things absorb who we are. They know everything about us.” – Blue Colson (Fay Marsay), “Hated in the Nation” (Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 6)
The six episodes of the third season of Black Mirror return viewers to the world explored in the first two seasons. A world (or worlds) in which people are carrying on normal lives in which high-technology devices, machines, and platforms have become unremarkable aspects of their daily lives. The ubiquity of rating people on a five-star scale on a social media app is just a fact of life to the people in “Nosedive,” the advanced altered-reality programming that has been neurally implanted is normal to the soldiers in “Men Against Fire,” an afterlife in the cloud (as opposed to the heavens) is almost banal to the aged and infirm in “San Junipero,” and the swarms of bee mimicking drones are just an accepted replacement for the disappearance of the actual bees in “Hated in the Nation.” Black Mirror throws its characters into a world that they accept – even if they may occasionally “remember” how it used to be – and even when the technology seems rather outlandish the characters never turn to the camera to give the audience a knowing wink.
The similarities to the first two seasons largely have to do with the recurrence of major themes: love and loss, Internet mediated popularity, real world consequences of online activity, dehumanization, and alienation. Some episodes wind up quite clearly evoking similar questions, and sparking similar discussions, across seasons: what do love and death mean if death can be technologically blunted is at the core of Season 3’s “San Junipero” and Season 2’s “Be Right Back;” an individual weaponizing social media to prove a point is central to Season 3’s “Hated in the Nation” and Season 1’s “The National Anthem;” and Season 3’s “Shut Up and Dance” and Season 2’s “White Bear” both boil down to a thoroughly disquieting question of whether or not the victims in these episodes deserve what is happening to them. Insofar, as there is a thread connecting the episodes in Season 3 to each other a case could be made that it is hacking – which plays a role (to varying extents) in “Men Against Fire,” “Shut Up and Dance,” and “Hated in the Nation.”
Or, to put it another way, Season 3 could be divided into episodes in which the problem stems from technology working as it’s supposed to, versus episodes in which a third party (sometimes seen, sometimes not) takes advantage of an affordance of a technology for their own (potentially nefarious) purposes.
“Nosedive,” “Playtest,” and “San Junipero” are all stories where the technology works. Many characters in “Nosedive” are shown having a difficult time coping with living in a world wherein their every act is rated on a five-star scale by friends and strangers – but it’s clear that the app is not being misused. Indeed, there are consultants one can hire to help one raise one’s average and the police can fine people by docking their rating. Likewise, “Playtest” promises an immersive virtual reality game that taps into the player’s darkest fears – and it does just that, revealing the player’s fear that something will go wrong with the game before digging into the player’s much deeper fear of the disease that claimed his father. And insofar as “Playtest” takes a, clearly unintended, fatal turn – a case could still be made that the game itself functioned as intended. While “San Junipero” – which, it must be noted, is a rare (somewhat) hopeful episode – promises those close to death a sort of singularity enabled version of the afterlife, which is precisely what it delivers. Viewers can certainly argue about whether the idea of the singularity (which “San Junipero” relies on) is bunk or not, but as far as the episode is concerned the technology works: it delivers to its two main characters pretty-much exactly what it promises to give them. And though some of the technologies shown in Black Mirror seem quite outlandish (the singularity), it should be remembered that engaging with science fiction always requires a certain suspension of disbelief.
On Janus’s other face, “Shut Up and Dance,” “Hated in the Nation,” and “Men Against Fire” all present stories in which the technologies are used in other ways than intended. That the technologies wind up used in such ways speaks to the fact that these technologies afforded such uses – but this misuse comes about as result of a third party’s meddling. In “Shut Up and Dance” hackers use evidence of the misdeeds of Internet users to force those people to perform a set of tasks lest the evidence be leaked. And in the end, the hackers reveal the information anyways for the “lulz” of it. And though “Shut Up and Dance” may make the tasks sound (based on the title alone) silly, it is worth noting that these tasks wind up involving armed robbery and fighting to the death. In “Hated in the Nation” swarms of bee drones are used by a hacker as assassins, first to fulfill a role in his social media #DeathTo game and then as a way of teaching a lesson to those who hopped on that hashtag. The bees were meant to fulfill the ecological role that had once been filled by the, now largely extinct, actual bees (and to fill a governmental surveillance role) – but the hacker is able to take them over for his own purposes. While “Men Against Fire” features soldiers who have been modified so that they see the mutant “Roaches” as feral monsters, but when one of the Roaches manages to interfere with a soldiers implant the soldier sees that the Roaches are in fact normal people. “Men Against Fire” represents a technology that “hacks” the soldiers worldview by making them see a different version of it – and it is hacked back to show the world as it is.
The power of these six narratives, considered as a unit, is that they show that technologies that function as intended can still have very negative results. While also serving as a reminder that, when it comes to technology, if it can be hacked it probably will be. What joins these six narratives is that the people in them find themselves at the mercy of their technologies (though in “San Junipero” mercy may have a positive connotation). In some cases they literally “signed up” for these technologies, but it’s fairly clear that they didn’t really know what they were going to get. And in some cases the society seems to have opted for it and the individuals have had no choice but to go along. What matters most, though, is that this technological world seems normal to the characters. And, this can serve to wonderfully de-normalize that which the audience finds normal, all of the technologies in “Shut Up and Dance” exist at the time of this writing. Thus the episodes are a reminder that people and societies accept their technologies (happily or not), and make peace with the ethical tangles that come along with them. The speed with which the viewer buys into the “monsters vs. soldiers” narrative goes a long way to explain why the soldiers themselves so easily accept what their implants present as reality.
Five of the six episodes take place at a point in time wherein the technologies seem to have already been in operation for a while. The way they operate, the way they were designed, the relations they structure, and the value systems they reify, therefore all appear to be fairly set. And the characters portrayed as living in these worlds are shown as having come to accept this technological status quo. This may seem to be simply a useful storytelling device (which it is), but it is evocative of a larger theme regarding technology that transcends fictional work. It resonates with a theory put forward by the historian of technology Thomas P. Hughes who introduced the concept of “technological momentum” as a way of explaining the development of technological systems over time. As Hughes put it:
“A technological system can be both a cause and an effect; it can shape or be shaped by society. As they grow larger and more complex, systems tend to be more shaping of society and less shaped by it.” (Hughes, 112)
What Black Mirror shows are worlds in which the technological systems have gathered enough “momentum” that they are more shaping of the societies than shaped by them. And this is as true of the episode portraying thoroughly contemporary technology as the episodes portraying farflung futuristic machines. Even in the episode where the specific technology is new (“Playtest”) the broader technological system of which it is part (immersive video games) has already gathered enough momentum so as to set this new technology within an already existing framework of values and ideas. Of course, Hughes was not a technological determinist, and he emphasized that:
“a system with great technological momentum can be made to change direction if a variety of its components are subjected to the forces of change…technological momentum, like physical momentum, is not irresistible.” (Hughes, 112/113)
But as these episodes show, changing that momentum can be very difficult once “great technological momentum” has been built up. Of the episodes only “Hated in the Nation” seems to be a tale in which what has been shown might lead to a serious change in the system (and all it required was over 300,000 deaths). Will the horrors shown in “Nosedive,” “Shut Up and Dance,” or “Men On Fire” do anything to stop the momentum? Unlikely. The terrible travails of a single person (or a few people) are nothing in the face of massive technological momentum. The characters in Black Mirror are the, at times literal, casualties of momentum. Indeed, several of these episodes clearly demonstrate the mechanisms by which the socieites handle the moments when something goes awry with a particular individual. Thus these episodes can lead to a productive consideration of what could have been done at the outset to prevent these occurrences – and what kinds of things would have to happen at the moment portrayed to drive some kind of change. What are the “components” that can be “subjected to the forces of change”? How would you go about doing this?
To be frank, if you found any of the episodes of Black Mirror (from any of the seasons) disturbing – than this is a question that you should be seriously asking yourself.
Momentum may not be irresistible, but as these episodes make clear powerful momentum makes resistance seem futile. And its easiest to change things before the system has been able to build up too much momentum. What Black Mirror shows is a world in which it is already “too late,” and what can happen to people caught up in such a world. People, to be honest, who are not meant to seem all that different from the people watching Black Mirror.
“I didn’t expect to find myself living in the future, but here I f*****g well am!” – Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald), “Hated in the Nation” (S3, E6)
Black Mirror is a foreboding show.
From the first minutes of any given episode the audience has a knowing feeling in their gut that something is going to go wrong. Perhaps horribly wrong. Usually this concern is prescient. If Black Mirror wanted to adopt a subtitle they could do worse than “things go wrong and people suffer.” As a viewer, one can usually make a fairly solid prediction of just how things will go wrong within the first few minutes of an episode. The moment you see the character’s rating each other, and consider the title, in “Nosedive” you know that the episode will end with the status focused main character having her rating plummet. As soon as the main character in “Playtest” goes in for, well, a playtest of a new game you know that he’s probably going to die. And the moment you see the bee drones in “Hated in the Nation” you know that these drones are going to be used to wreak some kind of havoc.
Some of this follows from the way in which Black Mirror trains its audience. After a single episode (if not before it) – the viewer knows to expect the worst. And therefore, expects it. And this expectation is built up and reinforced by all of the conversations people have with each other in which they refer to how disturbing they find Black Mirror. Indeed, one of the things that makes “San Junipero” such an emotionally evocative episode is precisely that it is the first time that an episode has ended reasonably well. This is not to say that “San Junipero” is not somber (it is) but compared to the rest it’s really rather heartwarming. In other words, when a viewer starts to watch an episode of Black Mirror they are attuned to look for the particular technology (or technologies) that are going to lead to some manner of catastrophe. Thus, the viewer begins to predict how badly things are going to turn out even before the episode’s end. To be clear, Season 3 features two particular examples of things going really spectacularly wrong, episodes which portray not isolated horrors but massive ones. Hundreds of thousands of people are killed by the bee drones in “Hated in the Nation” and neural implants in “Men Against Fire” have been used to convince soldiers they’re killing “mutants” when really they’re engaging in a campaign of eugenic genocide. Yet regardless of the ultimate scale, every episode begins by setting the viewer on guard for something bad to happen.
Therefor, when someone starts watching an episode of Black Mirror they (probably) begin imagining all of the ways in which these technologies can sow chaos and tragedy. And yet, the characters in the episodes often seem somewhat caught off guard as they slowly come to terms with the grim affordances of the technologies that surround them. All of which leads to a rather thorny question: why didn’t anybody think about these possibilities before it was too late?
Alas, many of the terrible things that unfold in Black Mirror seem like they could have been curbed if – when a given technology was first being conceptualized – somebody had spoken up and stated: “You want to know how you can tell this is a bad idea? Because it’s really obviously a bad idea.” Or at the very least, somebody could have done a better job of making the downsides clear. And this is a question which is every bit as applicable to the episodes that portray technology that will already be out of date by the time the fourth season airs. Alas, what makes this matter so sticky is that we are stuck in it. And we may also suspect that warnings were sounded, but simply ignored. After all, what are a few casualties in the name of technological progress? The way in which you answer that question reveals a depressing amount about your views on technology.
These are the sorts of issues the philosopher Hans Jonas wrestled with in his book The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. True, Jonas was not writing about Black Mirror (he died in 1993) but the questions he was raising about technology are the same questions which Black Mirror brings up. Originally published in 1979 (in German, the English version came out in 1984), The Imperative of Responsibility is focused on what Jonas perceived as the big technologically wrought problems of his day: genetic engineering, environmental destruction, and especially nuclear weapons. Jonas was particularly preoccupied with the matter of what technologies in the present meant for people in the future, and he recognized that today’s technological innovation is tomorrow’s ecological disaster. And that today’s new technology is tomorrow’s banal/normalized technological world. Aware of the tremendous reach and power of new technologies, Jonas was concerned (in a way that somewhat echoes Hughes’s notion of “momentum”) that once a technological system is set in motion it may be near impossible to regain control of it. Thus, Jonas argued that it was necessary to think carefully through the implications of a new technology before it was unleashed, and this precautionary principle was based on a fairly simple assumption. Namely, that in assessing the potential of new technology:
“It is the rule, stated primitively, that the prophecy of doom is to be given greater heed than the prophecy of bliss.” (Jonas, 31)
In other words, instead of saying “this technology will be wonderful for reasons X, Y, and Z” Jonas was arguing that greater attention should be paid to the argument that “this technology will be horrible for reasons Q, E, and W.” This is not to deny the positive potentials, but to recognize that the downsides may be much worse. This is clearly a rather pessimistic tack to take, but Jonas was not particularly concerned with being derisively labeled a pessimist. After all, seriously considering ethical matters often requires a sad recognition that human history repeatedly proves that optimism is unwarranted. Furthermore, Jonas countered that the true pessimists were those willing to gamble with the potential future of humanity for the sake of trying to push through some questionable technological improvements. In Jonas’s estimation the ideological faith that people were marching towards a technologically enabled utopia was an easy way to distract people with an appealing fantasy while they were actually marching towards concentration camps on a blighted planet. An emphasis on the future was essential to Jonas’s “imperative” and he highlighted that the technological decisions being made today would have far reaching consequences. Furthermore, the risks were not simply fantastical – stockpiles of nuclear weapons (and today climate change) are clear evidence that technologically exacerbated doom is not just an idea in grim science fiction. And it is a situation that has been arrived at and advanced through an unthinking fealty to techno-scientific “progress.” As Jonas cuttingly put it:
“we live in an apocalyptic situation, that is, under the threat of universal catastrophe if we let things take their present course…The danger derives from the excessive dimensions of the scientific-technological-industrial civilization.” (Jonas, 140)
Against this Jonas repeatedly emphasized the need for a greatly expanded and radical conception of responsibility wherein people in the present truly see themselves as responsible for the future. Thus, he argued that in thinking through this responsibility that “the prophecy of doom” should be a guiding principle. We should pay greater heeds to our fears of what could go wrong than our hopes of what might go right. And in thinking through these “fears” we should not hesitate to envision ourselves in the role of victim.
Which brings us back to Black Mirror. When someone watches Black Mirror they watch with the “prophecy of doom” in mind and with fear as their guiding principle as they mull over what could go wrong. True, this might not really be in the same way that Jonas intended – but it’s still worth noting that when we try to think of how things could go wrong, it’s actually relatively easy to come up with all kinds of worst case scenarios. And this clearly reveals many of the shortcomings that are endemic to technological society. Do we really think that making soldiers believe that “enemies” are actually horrific monsters instead of other human beings is a good idea? Do we really think that being able to rate everyone around us on a five-star scale, and having this determine everything in our lives, is a good idea? Who thought it would be a good idea? At the very least the episodes in Season 3 of Black Mirror should foreground the fear in everyone’s mind of: what happens when (not if) this gets hacked? And though it is uncomfortable to do so, when watching Black Mirror it is useful to ask yourself: what if I was one of the victims? In short, watch “Hated in the Nation” and imagne yourself having a bee drone bore into the pain center of your brain. It’s a scary thought.
On a slightly different note, it should also be recognized that technological changes often build on each other. Or, to put it slightly differently, technologies are often sought as the solutions to problems that are already pretty closely linked to technology. In “Hated in the Nation” the audience is informed that the bee drones have been turned to because of the destruction of actual bees – they are a technological “get out of jail free” card for humanity’s role in mass extinction. But these swarms of tiny drones can be commandeered and turned into an army of vengeance – and this is not to even begin to dwell upon the fact that these tiny drones were being used (as is explained in the episode) to keep the population under constant surveillance. Thus, failure by humanity to heed the “prophecy of doom” surrounding matters of climate change and mass extinction helped (in the episode) lead to what seems like a technological solution which is accepted without giving much thought to what such a prophecy might reveal about this solution. Technology can certainly be used to solve pressing problems, but quite often new (and dire) problems are created because one opted for such a technological solution (this is evocative of the fourth of Neil Postman’s “Questions to Ask of New Technology”).
Admittedly, this may seem like it is pushing things in a rather hyperbolic direction. Yet, that’s part of the point of the “prophecy of doom.” After all, it’s “prophecy of doom” not “prophecy of kind of crummy.” Giving fear precedence allows the uncomfortable questions to surface. And if you aren’t feeling scared, you probably aren’t thinking as darkly as you should. Maybe you haven’t done anything similar to the blackmailed individuals in “Shut Up and Dance,” but do you have any secrets that you wouldn’t want hackers spilling for the “lulz” of it? Or, seeing as the central character of “Shut Up and Dance” is young – what if this were to happen to your child? Have you ever jumped on a silly Twitter hashtag that was perhaps a bit cruel? That’s what gets hundreds of thousands of people in “Hated in the Nation” killed. You might think that an app that lets you rate other people is stupid – but would you be able to avoid it if it sweeps over all of society? And what if a slight genetic predisposition towards Alzheimer’s (this is a random example) in your DNA gets you tagged as a “roach” and hunted down for summary execution by an army of soldiers who no longer see you as human?
Don’t let the fact that these things haven’t happened to you function as a permission slip that lets you to ignore that they actually could. When you watch Black Mirror you begin to imagine the ways in which a technology could go wrong. What if you took this and applied it to the next tech company’s launch event? What if you took this and kept it in the forefront of your mind while reading the “technology” section of the newspaper? What if you kept this in mind while considering the immense technological capabilities that get transferred in the wake of a hotly contested election. Sure, it might not be the most enjoyable thing to do. But part of taking responsibility entails recognizing that we fool ourselves by only focusing on the happy side of technology.
In The Imperative of Responsibility, Jonas writes:
“The serious side of science fiction lies precisely in its performing such well-informed thought experiments, whose vivid imaginary results may assume the heuristic function here proposed.” (Jonas, 30)
And this is a function that Black Mirror can hopefully serve. It provides a lesson in looking for the danger.
“There’s no cure for the Internet.” – Hector (Jerome Flynn), “Shut Up and Dance” (S3, E3)
Hector’s line about the Internet is about as close as Black Mirror has come to having a character clearly articulate the show’s basic philosophy. And though the Internet represents the raft of technologies with which Black Mirror most commonly engages, the “there’s no cure” seems like it can easily apply to most of the technologies seen going awry in the various episodes of the show. Once the technology is unleashed, we’re forced to live with the consequences.
Well, someone is forced to live with the consequences.
Black Mirror is at its best when it allows itself some subtlety, when it resists the temptation to bludgeon the viewer with the meaning of a particular story. Ultimately, this is one of the major shortcomings of the show’s third season– it too often trades in haunting restraint for simple explanations. Thus “Nosedive” is undermined by the number of characters who are given the opportunity to expound upon the pointlessness of the rating system (while still using it), and “Men Against Fire” falls apart during a lengthy sequence of exposition that puts everything so clearly as to make it feel like the moment when a super villain explains their master plan. Season three demonstrates that Black Mirror is at its strongest in weaving intensely personal tales, but falters when it tries to expand the scope of the world too greatly. Pornographic dreams are given greater attention in “Men Against Fire” than the revelation that an army of soldiers has been carrying out eugenic genocide. Similarly, “Hated in the Nation” struggles to get across the horror of hundreds of thousands of deaths, and robs itself of its terrible weight by concluding on a heroic note by having one of the police officers being hot on the trail of the responsible individual. Sure, the detective may catch him – but he still killed hundreds of thousands of people. This is not to say that Black Mirror’s third season is bad, far from it, but even at its highest moments (“Shut Up and Dance” and “San Junipero”) the season is not as effective as earlier entries (“White Bear,” “Be Right Back,” and “The Complete History of You”). Alas, these shortcomings are particularly evident insofar as many of the themes explored in the third season were previously (and better) explored in the first two seasons.
Nevertheless, the third season of Black Mirror remains well worth watching, and the fourth season will be worth watching as well. Even when the show falls short it can be useful in advancing a critical conversation about technology. As was argued above, one of the things that Black Mirror does is it allows (or forces) its audience to think about technology in a different way. At risk of making too broad a generalization, the main message that is culturally conveyed about technology to many of those who are sitting streaming Black Mirror on Netflix is basically a message of hope and optimism. The message is that [social media platform of your choosing] will connect you with your friends, that your smart phone is your ally (though you really need to trade it in for an even better model), that we are achieving better living through technology, and that for every problem technology exacerbates there is surely a technological solution. Black Mirror nicely intervenes in this conversation by loudly calling “bullshit.” True, the handful of episodes of the program cannot begin to counter the massive ideological apparatus that trumpets the “good news” of faith in technology, but the show is useful for reminding viewers that there is another way of seeing technology. As has been previously mentioned, technologically speaking, there is nothing in “Shut Up and Dance” that does not exist at the time of this writing – therefore when the viewer begins to anxiously imagine all of the things that could go wrong, they’re imagining possibilities in their actual lives. Black Mirror reminds its viewers that they are caught up in the technological “momentum” of their societies, and that they have much less control than they think. It is as Erich Fromm once wisely observed:
“There is also no strength in use and manipulation of objects; what we use is not ours simply because we use it.” (Fromm, 225)
Yes, the horror stories that Black Mirror tells are works of fantasy and fiction, but the hopeful stories peddled by tech companies are just as much works of fantasy and fiction. At its best, watching a season of Black Mirror is a crash course in learning to think about technology by way of “the prophecy of doom.” The challenge, of course, is whether viewers turn off this way of perceiving when they turn off Black Mirror.
Or, to put it slightly differently, can watching Black Mirror lead people to ask the questions about technology and society that the characters on Black Mirror have failed to ask?
If you answered that question in the affirmative, than you are a great deal more optimistic than Black Mirror is about humanity’s prospects.
Fromm, Erich. The Fear of Freedom. Routledge Classics. London: 2001.
Hughes, Thomas “Technological Momentum” in Smith, Merritt Roe and Marx, Leo (eds.) Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994.
Jonas, Hans. The Imperative of Responsibility. In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.