5 reasons every developer should watch Black Mirror

jkane By John Kane

12 July 2017 // Geek speak

1) It's "The Twilight Zone" for the internet age

Remember the Twilight Zone? A series of stories so popular they infected every inch of storytelling for decades. Black Mirror is currently only 10 stories (3 short seasons and a Christmas special) but it’s going to cause ripples that will be felt for years. Its dark tone marked a distinct change in modern science fiction, as our attitudes towards technology grow ever more cynical. It's also impressively produced, favouring tiny touches of signage and UI design over spaceships and explosions to give context to its worlds.

 

2) It's a brutal, unflinching look at the effects technology has on society

Black Mirror is dark in ways that will actually haunt you. Each episode takes a different aspect of modern life and skewers it so completely that you won't look at it the same way ever again. I'll never be able to shake the world of "15 Million Merits", but everyone finds something that will stick with them.


 

3) It's sci-fi without the science

What I mean by that, of course, is that the science isn't the point. There's very little technobabble in Black Mirror. The stories focus squarely on people and the influence technology has in their lives. Most stories focus on only a few characters, letting you get inside their heads before breaking your heart.

 

4) It's UI designs are GORGEOUS

The UIs in Black Mirror set the tone for the series. Futuristic in design, but clear enough that you can see their present day analogues influence. Unlike the futuristic designs seen in many films, the screens of Black Mirror feel like something you could have in your home now, not just in the future.

 

5) Once you've watched it, you'll never shake that voice in the back of your head asking "how could this go horribly wrong?"

I've avoided talking about story spoilers so far, but the episode "The Waldo Moment" in particular looks at how an offensive cartoon bear (with an analytics company behind it) draws so much attention to itself it becomes a tool for wielding real political power. The first episode deals with just how hard it is to prevent a story going viral and gaining a life of its own. "Be Right Back" is a stark reminder that one day, someone will have to decide what to do with our social media accounts after we've died.

As programmers, we're responsible for the creation of things that affect the lives of people we've never met. It's crucial we think about the harm we might be doing and mitigate it, and the key to thinking about that harm is to foster that dark imagination that might make us uncomfortable. A Black Mirror is as dark as it gets.

 

Image source: http://www.pushing-pixels.org/2016/08/28/the-screens-of-black-mirror-interview-with-gemma-kingsley.html 

 

jkane By John Kane

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