Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You” doesn’t reveal itself as a dystopian society in the beginning. As the show progresses, the world seems like it has the best technological advances, but it is actually dangerously invasive. When Liam begins to suspect that his wife his cheating on him, he forces himself into her memories to find the truth.
Liam already knew the truth about his wife’s affair before seeing her memories because she admitted it, but he wasn’t satisfied and forced her to show him her memories of the affair. He even forced himself into Jonas’s memories to make him erase any memories he had created with his wife.
Humans will believe what they want to believe regardless if the truth comes from the word of a person or from an actual memory in their brain. Liam drove himself crazy analyzing old memories in a hunt for evidence that she was cheating. Liam’s sanity was too far gone to believe anything his wife had to say because his suspicions were already running wild.
Society experiences the same effect through “fake news,” which is usually just news that people won’t believe because they think there is a hidden agenda. Even if there is video evidence of something, if it is labeled “fake news,” the people opposed to it will refuse to believe it and reject all means of logic and science to stick with their reasoning.
The article “Memory and Privacy in The Entire History of You” focuses on the issue of privacy in the episode. Human brains can’t psychologically grasp seeing other people’s memories. The brain will naturally block bad memories or other events to protect itself from psychological trauma.
Humans are not equipped to handle the kind of technology that led Liam to violence and violated the memories of his wife and Jonas. The article reads, “The episode’s main character forced himself into seeing other people’s memories, threatening their safety. So, the privacy aspect of memory needs to be addressed in order to avoid such situations.”
Society has experienced privacy violations through websites like Facebook where people post their entire lives. According to the Forbes article “Facebook Privacy Update: Mark Zuckerberg’s Response To Cambridge Analytica Scandal One Year On,” 87 million Facebook profiles were harvested for personal data for political purposes. The scandal broke in 2018 and has resulted in many issues for Facebook, a company that is now reinventing its privacy policies. If memory technology were implanted in people’s brains, society would violate one another, and they would also be violated by technology.
When watching the episode, I could not see why this memory technology was so advanced and yet people were using it to intrude each other’s memories or look at vacation videos directly from their memories. If society was able to create something that advanced, would we use it for science or personal/vain reasons?
The only practical and sensible application of the technology I saw in the episode is when Liam is going through airport security, and the security guard requests that he play back his last week of memories to ensure he was not trying to bring anything dangerous or plan something dangerous at the airport. I think in that instance, this advanced piece of technology was finally used in a way that would match its capabilities.
If detectives or investigators could play back the memories of those being accused, crime would be solved quickly, and it would prevent people from being falsely imprisoned or, in some instances, sentenced to death. This memory technology could seriously change the justice system if used properly and responsibly.
A concern for combining this memory technology and the justice system, however, could lead to an episode of “White Bear” in which the technology is somewhat abused to wipe the memories of criminals so they are tortured. If humans could save memories, they surely would be able to find a way to erase memories as well.
I believe a memory technology like the one shown in “The Entire History of You” could have a lot of incredible benefits in the future. However, I don’t believe humans would handle it properly.
I think a lot of instances would lead to Liam’s situation where people are driven crazy and they violently intrude the memories of others, or even lead to humans using it like we see in the episode “White Bear.” The brain, humans and memories are too fragile and private for humans to responsibly combine it with technology.