Throughout history, there’s been an interesting dichotomy about how people approach technology and progress. People like their smartphones which have apps for everything between shopping and porn, their smart TVs with 500 channels, and things like air conditioning and refrigeration and modern plumbing and MRIs. All of it, from the most superfluous crap to our greatest achievements, are built upon 6,000 years of advancements. And yet, there is a gnawing suspicion and paranoia which surrounds technology. Whether it be fears of losing one’s job to a machine, the feeling that what we’ve gained has been payed for by melting ice caps and poisoned rivers, or that one day the supercomputers, robots and drones will rise up and kill us all, a certain amount of technophobia is pervasive in worries about how changes might affect what it means to be human.
And the idea that discovery is a destructive force is something which is pervasive in most of myth, legend, and literature. For example, both the Greek and Abrahamic creation stories have the temptation of forbidden knowledge, a female figure—Eve and Pandora—does something which she was told not to do, and the journey beyond ignorance destroys innocence and paradise while letting evil into the world. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has a subtext of a fear that science and technology are encroaching on the territory of the gods, hence the novel’s subtitle: The Modern Prometheus. But even in this division, we hold hope that our technology, just like the butterfly that flies out of Pandora’s box, may save us in the end. Within Star Trek, the development of Warp Drive becomes a seminal moment for humanity, leading to an Earth where the former things of war, poverty, famine, and discrimination are washed away.
Created by Charlie Brooker and heavily inspired by Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, most episodes of Black Mirror are set in a not-so-distant future. They vary greatly in subject matter and tone, but all the stories share a theme of the interaction between technology and humanity. The title references the reflection given by a television, smartphone, or any electronic device with a screen. The result is something that is both shocking and very thought-provoking. The third season of the series began streaming on Netflix this weekend, and the six new episodes where technology allows people to indulge in their worst tendencies.