In an article I came across recently, Ursula K. Le Guin who is a celebrated science fiction writer proclaimed interestingly how science fiction writers and proponents can stand up to social fallacies and be the agents of change. She couldn’t have been more on point. Any other conventional form of expression, more often than not, becomes prone to unnecessary moral scrutiny towards a fascist conformity which engulfs any opportunity of change it may have been carrying. Science fiction, on the other hand, enjoys the freedom to convey even the most absurd of ideas simply because it may be happening in some “parallel universe” or “another galaxy”. This is what condones Sci-fi from being burnt at the stake, thankfully letting it go on manufacturing tomorrow’s reality.
Netflix’s Black Mirror is a fountainhead of the most outrageous ideas you’d ever have the good fortune of seeing. Created by Charlie Brooker, who is an eminent satirist, Black Mirror brings with it an ascerbic juxtaposition of cutting edge science fiction and satire. Unlike other Science fiction extravaganzas like Star Trek and Star Wars, Brooker’s portrayal of the future acts as a devise for the satire and not a centrepiece. Although you are amazed and baffled by certain technologies depicted, you do not get distracted by or fixated on them. Instead, you see through them into the complexities of the human condition and its social implications. You do not ask yourself – “How does this technology work?”. You ask yourself – “How would I act in this situation and in such a world?”
From the third season which is currently running, a particular story called “Nosedive” really made me think about the society we live in today, as I found it most relevant. Nosedive portrays a reality where the whole world is one gregarious social community wherein each and every person is measured by his/her social ranking. Every individual has a Google Glass like implant in their eyes which allows them to see the social score of another person as they talk to them. For instance, if two people are walking towards you, you’d be able to see the scores of both of them hovering over their heads. The one whose score is a 4.2 is a better prospect while the other whose score is a 2.5 may not be the best person to befriend. After all there must be a reason they have such low scores.
Every individual in this metric-oriented world can score others through their profile which can be accessed immediately through their mobile devices or even through the implants based on one’s behaviour, appearance, etc. Every score is basically an average of all the scores that have been awarded to you by everyone you have met. In such a society, discrimination is the obvious consequence. And true to that, people are indeed discriminated in public places, civic amenities and almost every place you can think of. If a high-score individual is standing in line behind you, who is an average-score, that person would be given priority before you and you would be asked to step back. With such a profound subject, your attention is suddenly pulled towards the morality of the situation from the technological innovation. On one hand the system discriminates against people but on the other hand it also forces people to be nice to each other. But then you start to question the false niceties. Can a system be called effective if the only motivation of being nice is selfish i.e., you are nice just so you could earn some points ? Then you start to notice how similar it is to the world we live in now. We live a different life on Social media platforms whereas we may be this totally different person in real life. Our existence teeters on the perception that we work so hard to create.
Every story in Black Mirror is a treatise in itself, exploring a unique faction of human society. With minimalistic yet authentic special effects and phenomenal editing, Black Mirror redefines the essence of how science fiction should be written and presented. Such speculative fiction feels closer to reality as it strikes a subtle resemblance to our present world.
As creator Charlie Brooker says –
“each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they are all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in ten minutes time if we are clumsy.”
Check out his BBC interview on the series:
gobblpoint: Watch it for the mind-blowing ideas and profoundly presented satire. Even if you are an apolitical, you can enjoy it just for its sci-fi stories.
Disclaimer: The images used in this post are the sole property of the makers of the series and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever.