By Eoin McKenna
The “Black Mirror” episode Nosedive examines a society in which rating apps dictate the flow of life. The end result is a society in which no one expresses genuine sentiment to one other, and fake kindness is a way of life.
Although one could argue that, to a certain extent, our society has been drained all of its authenticity, it has still not reached the levels presented in this episode. However, recent app developments may eventually lead us to a society like this.
The emergence and creation of multiple rating apps is now occurring in our world. An app called “Peeple” went live in March of 2016. It is self-described as “Yelp for humans.” The app allows users to determine which reviews of themselves appear on their profile. You can have reviews written about you even if you do not have an account.
The developers store all reviews written on company servers and have considered a paid option, dubbed a “truth license,” allowing visibility of each individual’s reviews, which is particularly harrowing.
Less grave iterations of the concept have also been explored. In an effort to promote Nosedive, Netflix developed rateme.social, a site which allows users to rate individuals’ Twitter accounts with a star rating.
The site looks identical to the one featured in Nosedive, yet it appears to be just for fun promotional purposes. We have yet to see if the popularity of apps like Peeple will expand. For the moment, they appear to be rarely used.
Episode 2, Season 2 of Black Mirror, White Bear, follows a young woman who believes the world has experienced a catastrophic event, which has essentially left the population in a zombie-like state, except for hunters which try to kill all those who are not zombies.
The young woman spends the episode evading the hunters and trying to shut down a signal that she believes has left everyone in the zombie state. But in the end, she discovers her day was scripted. She is a child murderer, and being stuck in a daily loop of horrific events in shame is punishment for her crimes.
The concept is particularly far-fetched, yet in our world, there are places individuals can go to experience scripted events and adventures called escape rooms. Escape rooms are typically team-building exercises in which a group is put into a scenario they must work together to solve. These scenarios are in controlled environments with scripted events, and are particularly popular in metropolitan areas. There is even one as close as Memphis.
Episode 2, Season 3 of “Black Mirror,” PlayTest follows a young man from the United States traveling the world after a traumatic family event. Right before returning home, the young man loses all of his money. His credit card information is stolen, and he must find a way to make his money back, so he can return to the states.
The young man is presented with the chance to test a virtual reality program for a prominent game developer. During the test, the man goes through an extended simulation period before it is revealed that he is killed by the program in milliseconds.
Virtual reality is an industry which is now incredibly prominent in our world, as Facebook recently acquired Oculus Rift, leader of the virtual reality goggle market for somewhere around $2 billion. Funded by one of the largest tech companies in the world, Oculus Rift will now be able to make great strides in innovation and explore fields of application such as education, music, military, retail, travel, and medical uses. Virtual reality in our future will not just be for the purpose of videogames.
Under my personal direction, a new episode will be called “Biodegradable.” It is directly inspired by by the recent boom of sustainable seaweed based edible water bottles, and the 1973 film “Soylent Green.”
The world established in “Biodegradable” will be one overwrought with pollution of water sources and overpopulation. In an attempt to curb the problem, which will soon result in the demise of the human race, the United States government, in coalition with Russia, China, and Europe, has developed a new form of water bottle, which is both entirely biodegradable and self filtering. It is mass distributed and poised to save the world.
The story will follow a young couple, husband and wife, who are, respectively, a reporter and scientist. Through a series of digging and experimentation, the two discover that this new form of water is actually changing humans on a molecular level, causing them to die earlier in life, and their cadavers become water pods.
The end of the episode will leave the two shocked by the sheer scale of the conspiracy and their inability to do anything about it.