By the time I dragged Holly off, it was too late. Blood poured from Mika’s eye. The girl was gasping and twitching. All her movements were wrong, uncoordinated, spasmodic and jerky.
“You killed her!”
“No. I shut down her CPU,” said Holly, breathing hard. “It’s better this way. If they get too manipulative, it’s tougher. Trust me. They’re good at getting inside your head.”
“You can’t murder someone in front of me!”
“Like I said, not a murder. Hardware deactivation.” She shook me off and wiped her forehead, smearing blood. “I mean, if you want to pretend something like that is alive, well, have at her. All the lower functions are still there. She’s not dead, biologically speaking.”
When Detective Rivera brings the Mika Model to her owner’s home, she shows him the scene of the crime in which she murdered her owner. Soon after, a representative from the Mika Model company shows up at the door to deactivate the bot. To do this, she stabs the bot in the eye with a screwdriver. This makes the bot bleed a great deal. The fact that the Mika Model bleeds when she is stabbed with a screwdriver makes her seem more humanistic and makes you wonder, if she’s made of human material and not just metal scraps, as we often think robots are, is there more to her identity than just a processing system? Can she truly feel pain and is the abuse she’s endured really abuse? When Detective Rivera saw the scene of the bot’s owner’s murder, the gruesome image of the blood makes the murder seem more real to him. So when the Mika Model starts bleeding when she is deactivated, the blood makes it seem more like a murder than a deactivation, making Rivera truly question the bot’s humanity and rights.
First paragraph: We all think that without pain we would be unstoppable, we would be better, we would be in a sense , untouchable. Nothing to harm us or bring us down. But what would happen to our social development if pain was removed entirely? In Black Mirrors episodes, Arkangel, we are able to see what happens when parents are able to monitor their child’s perception of the world. With a push of a button Sarah’s mom is able to literally blur what she sees and muffle what she hears. Whenever Sarah’s cortisol levels would rise, due to stress, the chip installed in her head would instantly blur whatever was causing her stress. At first this didn’t seem like an issue, but as Sarah got older the censoring of reality caused Sarah’s social cues it be damaged. The first time we saw this was when Sarah’s grandfather suffered from a heart attack, and needed Sarah to help. However, Sarah couldn’t help because she literally could not process what was going on. This further developed when Sarah was unable to see blood. As a result, Sarah got upset and starts stabbing her hand with a pencil in an attempt to see her own blood. This lack of exposure to pain, fear and sadness caused Sarah to be behind on social cues and seriously damaged her mental health. So although censorship of the bad may seem good at first, we need the pain of reality. No matter how much it hurts us.
The very first scene of “Nosedive”, which is the first episode of the third season of Black Mirror, begins by showing the uniform and homogenous houses of Lacey’s street as she runs by. They are all pristine, monochromatic, and there are very minimal differences between each of the properties. The inside of Lacey’s house is as orderly and unoriginal as the exterior, as the scene cuts to her standing in the bathroom getting ready for her day at work. The bright light and uniform color scheme highlight the pristine nature. What is particularly striking about this scene is the fact that Lacey is practicing her facial expressions and laugh in the mirror as she prepares for her day. This suggests that she in unable to express genuine emotion, and has to practice how she will interact with those around her in order to portray a persona that will be accepted by her peers and boost her social media ratings. The fact that it is necessary for Lacey to practice her emotions is linked with her outward appearance. Because she is so concerned with conforming and acting in a way that will receive approval from her peers, she is unable to exhibit a genuine or original emotion. In this way, the way her home and her wardrobe appear is indicative of the way that she navigates the conformist society that she finds herself in. This has a deeper significance in that this society is simply concerned with the superficial, so the fact that one’s outer appearance is directly related to the way that they feel and where they fit in in this society is very telling.
In the Black Mirror episode, “The Entire History of You”, Liam’s actions in response to Fi and Jonas’ affair prove that memory-jogging technology is ultimately more harmful than helpful. The final scene in the episode shows Liam going back and forth between memories of Fi and his daughter in different rooms of the house doing trivial things such as folding clothes, brushing teeth, or eating breakfast, and Liam in those same rooms, but now he is alone. The scenes with Fi all have a warm filter on them, while the scenes where Liam is alone are very dark and blue toned, showing that his life is darker without his family and he is less complete because of it. In the broader spectrum, Fi is no longer living in the house because Liam discovered the affair she’d had around the time she conceived her and Liam’s daughter. While Fi’s actions were inarguably wrong, her and Liam had a very happy life together, with a baby daughter, beautiful house, and a seemingly good relationship. However, it occurs that, throughout the episode, the technology drove their lives and lead to an overall lack of trust and intimacy in their marriage. The episode goes to show that, while the grains uncovered the truth about Fi, Liam’s life is worse off because he is all alone and he is a different, more aggressive person since his utilization of the device.
In the Black Mirror episode, “Arkangel,” the character Sara has an emotionally immature identity due to Arkangel, a tech-operated child monitoring system. Due to this new technology in which negative stimuli are censored and parental camera supervision is available through a tablet, Sara has not been allowed to develop regularly. Although the technology does censor out negative stimuli for the better such as the scary dog that barks at her every morning on her way to school, the technology also comes with many downsides. One significant thing that the technology cannot do is allow Sara to respond to negative stimuli that need her attention. This can be seen when her grandfather collapses from a stroke when they are home alone, and she cannot see anything that happened or respond effectively. She is only able to see a blurry image around her grandfather’s face. Sara eventually gets fed up with this censoring because she wants to see the contents behind them. She becomes curious and decides to prick her finger producing blood. She even slaps her mother when she tries to stop her. Through this censoring, Sara was not able to live a normal childhood through only being able to see the good. This sort of nurturing will result in even more negative consequences later on in the show.
Part of the appeal of dating websites is that if and when things wrong, you can assign blame to an entity other than yourself. This idea is shown when Amy and Frank lay and bed and discuss the horrors of dating prior to the implementation of Coach. Amy says Must have been mental before the system… People had to do the whole relationship thing themselves, work out who they want to be with.” In this world, love is determined through the machine known as Coach, which assigns people to their soulmates. It is a completely hands off experience, so anything that goes wrong is blamed on the system. This allows for people to blame others for their lack of success in the love department, making it easier physiologically to process. This desire to not feel as though they are” failing” at love drives people to use online dating services.
The thriller movie, “Nerve” opens with a scene in which the viewer sees an up close view of a computer screen. The viewer watches as the character clicks around on her computer, operating between apps such as Spotify, Gmail, Facebook, Huffington Post, and Facetime. It is not until the main character accepts a Facetime call with her friend Sydney that we meet Vee and the basis of this new game called “Nerve” filled with dares and excitement. Users of this game can either be watchers or players; watchers pay to watch and the players accept to complete outlandish tasks. Vee’s friend is already a part of this site, and early on it is clear that Vee is a very outspoken and rather timid individual. As the movie advances and Vee becomes frustrated with Sydney’s requests to join, she reluctantly agrees, not knowing at the time that this game could radically alter her life. Vee is later asked to complete crazy tasks such as riding a motorcycle, getting a tattoo, stealing expensive clothing, and climbing between two buildings. This all seems as though it’s in good fun, but it is soon very clear how much of an impact technology has on these characters’ lives. This app, operated the watchers of the game, encompasses the power of group think and the lengths that we are willing to take for technology and a source of entertainment.
In the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” we see the result of an extreme context collapse in which social media has become real life. There is no difference between people’s “online” selves and their “real” selves. The internet persona has crowded out any genuine personality resulting in all interactions between people being fake and fabricated. Everyone in the society is putting on a performance in order to manipulating others into “liking” them so their status is boosted. Early in the episode, we are presented with a typical social interaction of this society between Lacie and another woman, Bethany, in an elevator. The two women are headed to work, with Lacie going to Hoddicker and Bethany going to a more esteemed company on the top floor. As the women stand in the brightly lit elevator, their interaction is so fake and forced it is hard to watch, and the two do not even look at each other as they speak. They talk about Lacie’s job, and Bethany’s tone is very condescending, as she has a higher social media rating than Lacie: “It’s great you’re still happy at Hoddicker.” Lacie answers: “Well, maybe not forever,” and Bethany answers “No, not forever.” Lacie tries to put the best image of herself forward so Bethany will rate her higher, and Bethany acts as if she is above Lacie. Bethany’s higher rating of 4.6/5 causes her to think it is ok to carry herself like she is better than Lacie. The conversation between the two women is far from comfortable and normal, and they seem detached the entire time.This is attributed to the fact that in this society, every social interaction is crucial for building a high rating. One mistake, and your image and therefore your life could deteriorate completely.
The Black Mirror episode, “The Entire History of You” portrays the memory technology as an essential tool for daily living. When Liam gets into a taxi to bring him to the airport, the taxi displays an advertisement for the “grain”, a memory implant . The ad is shown on a holographic screen, making the technology seem innovative and trustworthy. The advertisement is translucent, illustrating that the company distributing the memory implants uses this as a means of associating the grains with clarity and simplicity. Furthermore, its message is very direct; it claims that “memory is for living,” assuming that the grain implant is an integral part of the experience of living. Following this scene, Liam goes through airport security and the security guards closely examine his recent timeline of memories. In this scene, the grain is placed on a pedestal to promote its positive factors. Because it is placed in the context of airplane safety, the grain is displayed as a security precaution that is necessary for everyone’s immediate safety. Ultimately, the beginning scenes of this episode introduce the grain as trustworthy, safe, and critical to society.
In Black Mirror’s “Hang the DJ”, the creator shows the audience how dating applications can truly control one’s life and interactions. The two main characters, Frank and Amy, both use “Chief” as a mechanism of finding their true match. They are set up on a date at a location that is chosen by this circular tablet. When they arrive, their food is brought out without them ordering, another decision by the machine. We then see a moment where Frank tries Amy’s food, and a bodyguard-like figure stares him down as if he has done something wrong by not limiting himself to the food chosen for him by Chief. Throughout this dinner, there is an eerie feeling as if they are being watched. We then see them both check their “expiration date”, or the set time that they are allowed to have together. When this time has ended, they must split and go separate ways, never to look back. Of course, this is not what happens. Instead, the two fall in love and find it hard to find the same compassion in the other partners they are given. However, this machine has already chosen a life for them, as well as all the relationships to come. Because relationships are such a large part of what influences and ultimately determines our identity, one can see how this is an issue. So, I raise the question, if this tablet is responsible for all relationships, is it also responsible for creating an identity?
The piece opens as Emily Fort is on the phone texting Hayley Fort, her sister. Hayley seems as though she has a lot going for her: a family who cares about her, a boyfriend, and many thrilling experiences she has been basking in while at college. This is all halted, however, when it becomes clear that Hayley was shot and killed at a music festival. Although it is initially not clear as to how this information was obtained, it seems as though Hayley’s mother, Abigail, found out about it on the television. As Emily explains, there was a “VR re-creation hastily put up by the news crews [and that] the place was teeming with avatars holding a candlelight vigil” (3). The individuals present at the vigil seem character-like, as they are described as being “avatars.” There are no emotions described, and they seem to be removed. In addition to this, it is critical to mention that the Fort family is also distant. Not only are they not mentally at the candlelight vigil in order to honor their deceased family member, as they are merely watching it, they are also not physically near Hayley, as it is later divulged that they would need to fly to retrieve her body in California (3). It is from this opening scene that the reader is able to conclude that the Forts are not a close-knit family unit and that the piece is set in a futuristic time period where technology seems to be the main form of communication.
Liu, Ken. “Thoughts and Prayers.” Slate, 26 January 2019, https://slate.com/technology/2019/01/thoughts-and-prayers-ken-liu-short-story.html. Accessed 4 April 2019.
The simulations of Amy and Frank feel human emotions, as evident in their emotional responses to their perfect matches being found. Their emotionality raises the ethical dilemma of whether it is right to force them to live out simulations without freedom. At the end of the episode, Amy and Frank meet in their usual booth once again, with only a minute to speak to one another. The restaurant is dimly lit, with shadowy, judgmental figures gawking at them. Both Amy and Frank are visibly anxious, knowing that they want to be together, but their perfect matches have been found. They agree to escape their current situation by climbing the wall that surrounds the dating bubble. When the clock on their devices alerts that their time is up, Amy and Frank rise from their seats, holding hands lovingly, and making their way out of the restaurant. On their way out, they are stopped by men in all-black garb, one of whom holds a taser. Amy holds her hand up, touches the taser, and time pauses. This passage provides evidence that Amy and Frank are emotional at their core. They feel immense love for one another, enough so to risk their lives so that they may be together. Such emotionality is not expected of machines or technology, yet these simulations are capable of such complexities as love. The idea that simulations can feel love raises the question as to how they should be treated if they are capable of feeling?
The Black Mirror episode, Nosedive, depicts a world in which everyone carefully maintained an online persona for constant fear of alienation. The episode reaches its climax during the wedding scene at (52:00) in which Lacy completely gives up on her rating and is able to air her grievances against Naomi in front of an unnerved crowd. Lacy, having no motivation to keep up her fake personality, could finally say what she meant, and took full advantage of the opportunity, publicly speaking her mind for the first time during the episode. Such unfamiliar freedom was clearly therapeutic for Lacy, and she appeared to have no regrets even when put in jail. In showing how Lacy was transformed by her rejection of the technology that dominated social interactions, the episode asserts that technology ruins self esteem, and ultimately makes life worse. Other important examples of technology’s negative influences include the airport scene, in which Lacy is denied access to a flight because of her rating. Naomi’s phone call scene also provides a great example of how self esteem is hurt by the comparisons that arise through this technology.
Opening with the protagonists realizing they are in a fake world, the scene goes on show that the two people are actually just simulations in the end. When the two protagonists decide to leave the “walls,” they soon were placed in an area with a number of other couples. The scene ends with the two characters being sucked into what seems to be a counter, and it suddenly ends at 99.8 percent. Then the protagonists are revealed to be just simulations used for a dating app in the “real world.” The two protagonists seem to have a free will and consciousness before realizing they are just simulations, so they must have some form of intelligence. However, this assumption is only applicable if the simulations were created by other simulations (never by humans), but this does not seem to be the case. The two people that look like the protagonists at the end are revealed to be “real.” All the characters seen before the final scene were just simulations, but simulations that seem to have emotion. So, this raises the question of if human beings possess intrinsic emotional intelligence that is not replicable through artificial intelligence?
The contrast that is repeatedly shown over and over again between Mika and the Detective helps to reinforce this idea that there exists a parallel disconnect between humanity and the rapidly developing technology we are surrounded by today. After confessing to her owner’s murder in a rather blunt way, Mika goes with the detective to the scene of the crime for reasons that even he is not entirely sure of. On the way, he notices how “delicate and gorgeous” she was, unlike anything else in his life. She wears “expensive” heels, and this picture of great beauty is put into contrast very deliberately with the decidedly ugly “discarded coffee cups” littering the detective’s cop car. The grace and perfection of the Mika Model is far, far different and alien to the detective’s usual, messy style. This contrast between technology and humanity in the story mirrors a similar contrast that exists in the world today. The breakneck pace at which technological innovation and improvement is happening is creating a disconnect between what people are used to and what is coming next, but now at a rate too fast to become accustomed to. Just as the detective experiences the allure of such advanced technology despite its differences from his normal life, so to do we today chase after the next technological innovation without much thought to how it will fit into our lives.
The internet and what we post affects our relationships, but not always in a positive way. When posting, it is generally believed that our posts only affect ourselves, when in reality our profiles expose some of our friends and family members. Throughout The Circle, for instance, Mae begins a livestream and includes a video of her parents engaged in intimate activities for all of her followers to see. Although it was not Mae’s intention to show her parents in that light, this accident caused her to lose contact with her parents, damaging the close relationship that they had. The internet is an easily accessible place that allows our personal lives to become public through just one post. Everything from photos, videos and texts are present on the internet, even if it is not directly on our profiles. Mae’s parents, for instance, were not actively posting, but their lives were still harmed by what was on their daughter’s profile, which truly goes to show the dangers associated with social media. The movie ultimately serves as a warning for future social media post, and how the cliched idea of “be careful what you post” actually applies, seen through some of the extreme actions taken in the movie. When used in a way to connect with people, the internet has many benefits, but mistakes online can have long-lasting, detrimental effects.
At the end of a Black Mirror called “The Entire History of You”, the discovery of Fi’s secret affair proves that their idealized technology has subjected everyone to the brutally honest truth of every action ever taken. After Liam returns home from assaulting Jonas he slyly goes back to Fi and asks about a painting in their room. This mentioning, which seems odd and out of place at first, ties into what Liam saw on Jonas’s internal history. Viewers thus learn on Liam’s own playback that Jonas had been in that room with Fi just months before, although she had claimed that their “one-week” fling ended long ago. While Fi attempts to deny all aspects of this truth the room gets darker and the music turns quiet as the two begin to watch such a clip of her pastime. Furthermore, Liam begins in panic while considering the possibility that their child might be his. In such state of mind he screams, “Look at what you have done to me, this is not me, I just need to hear the truth”(Black Mirror). As has been noted earlier in the episode, these playbacks of memory that are possible with their devices generate panic and a loss of identity for our main focus Liam. It seems that the only thing that can calm him down is knowing the truth, given that he can’t just settle with a lie when the possibility of knowing more is out there. Thus, the technology has subjected him to disbelief in anything his wife has said to him, a characteristic that most likely would not have existed without their memory devices.
Perhaps the most shocking scene in the story comes in the last few paragraphs. A lawyer from Executive Pleasures, the company which leases the Mika models, enters the crime scene. She banters with the model and with Detective Rivera, insisting the Mika is not actually sentient despite Mika’s pleas and Rivera’s hesitation. When Mika asks for a public defender instead, the lawyer asks Rivera, “Will you explain to her that she isn’t a citizen, or a person?” Then to Mika: “You’re not even a pet, honey.” Then, she stabs a large screwdriver into Mika’s eye, causing her to fall back, scream, and bleed profusely. She then reassures Rivera that the model was never sentient to begin with. In this scene, the lawyer represents the cold, rational view of AI: that it is artificial, that it is manmade, that due to its nature it never become anything more than code, however realistic it may be. On the other hand, Rivera represents a more techno-humanist view of AI. After spending time with Mika and listening to her pleas, he warms up to the idea that her ability to learn and grow makes her as inherently human as himself, whose CPU just so happens to be biological in origin. Despite the lawyer’s definitive statements otherwise, the writer chooses to leave his answer to this debate ambiguous through one symbol: Mika’s blood. Blood is sacred, and has always been strongly associated with life. Animals bleed, humans bleed, and the simple ability to bleed is metaphorically and physically linked to the state of being alive. Therefore, when Mika bleeds, the writer is tapping into our deepest, most primitive associations of life. If her capability to learn and feel do not sell us on her being alive, perhaps showing her flowing blood will do the trick. Therefore, the simple, one sentence choice to spring a leak in Mika makes the reader question the lawyer’s argument, and lend credence to Rivera’s point of view.
Artificial intelligence may have seemed like a fiction a decade ago, but today it is all around us and seems to be trending towards even more advanced and possibly humanlike capabilities. In the short story Mika Model, a form of artificial intelligence has been created that’s purpose is to please the sexual desire of the user. They are programmed to learn the users like and dislikes and then adapt to become what is desires. They are human-like robots that possess human-like qualities. In the short story, a Mika Model presents Officer Rodriguez with a head. She has murdered her user, claiming that he was hurting her and hurting her feelings. Bold statement coming from a robot. But, towards the middle of the story the reader notices that Rodriguez begins to fall under the seductive spell for moments. The Mika also claims that it is just like him, able to learn and feel. What makes this story so interesting is not that the Mika decapitated a man, but that Rodriguez treats the robot like a person. He has to remind himself over and over that it is not alive. The reactions of Rodriguez highlight the question of how do people perceive AI, and will we one day coexist in beneficial relationships. Rodriguez seems to lean towards coexisting with AI.
Humans tend to anthropomorphize technology when it is convenient, but if technology is not pleasing humans quickly revert back to objectifying it. This idea can be seen through Rivera’s reaction to the deactivation of Mika. Near the end of the short story Holly Simms deactivates Mika by stabbing a screwdriver through her eye. Rivera is shocked and horrified at this, shouting that Holly “can’t murder someone in front of me.” However, Holly sees this as merely “hardware deactivation.” While Mika is a robot, Rivera humanizes her by calling her deactivation a murder, and calls her “someone”. Throughout the short story, Rivera flips between calling Mika a robot and a girl. He calls her a girl when she appeals to his emotions, but flips to calling her a robot when he remembers that she’s supposed to please him. Since it is convenient to Rivera to pass off his attraction to a human, he anthropomorphize Mika, but when it is convenient to dismiss his feelings he reverts to calling her a bot. Holly only sees Mika as a robot, and deactivates her in a cruel way by stabbing her eye with a screwdriver. Ironically, this paints Holly as cold and robotic while Mika is sympathetic. Holly works for the company, so it is convenient for her to treat Mika as a robot rather than a human.
The ability to track others through technology makes people feel a sense of discomfort and worry when this tool is taken away from them. In a scene from Season 4, Episode 2 of Black Mirror titled “Arkangel”, the mother begins to feel worried and lost when she is unaware of her teenage daughter’s whereabouts after she has tucked away her tracking technology (19:16). Prior to this moment, we are introduced to the characters when the mother, Marie, loses her daughter, Sarah, at the park when she is just three-years old. After this incident, the mother immediately tries out the latest technology “Arkangel”, which allows her to track her daughter and much more. The mother forced herself to put away the system to prevent herself from being overprotective of her daughter and negatively altering her future. This scene conveys our society as being overly reliant on technology.
In the coming of age of Sam, the daughter of paranoid mother, Marie, who uses the implanted microchipping device, Arkangel, to be able to track, see and control her daughter’s everyday encounters in the world, is exposed to the phenomenon of blood for the first time by her one of her classmates. Taking it upon herself to understand more, she pricks her finger, sees a filtered sight of blood, and smears it on her face. Not knowing how to react to the sight of blood or experience of pain, she starts to aggressively prick herself more. Seeing this visual from her Arkangel device, Marie rushes into the room to stop her only to be struck in the face by her daughter. Censoring her from stressful stimuli has altered her behavior from how trauma-free her life has been. This scene demonstrates the lack of parental control and guidance in real life, and how this negatively impacts the growth and development of Sara’s being.
During the the coming of age years of Sam, the daughter of paranoid mother, Marie, who uses the implanted microchipping device, Arkangel, in the Black Mirror episode “Arkangel”, to be able to track, see and control her daughter’s everyday encounters in the world, is exposed to the phenomenon of blood for the first time by her one of her classmates. Taking it upon herself to understand more, she pricks her finger, sees a filtered sight of blood, and smears it on her face. Not knowing how to react to the sight of blood or experience of pain, she starts to aggressively prick herself more. Seeing this visual from her Arkangel device, Marie rushes into the room to stop her only to be struck in the face by her daughter. Censoring her from stressful stimuli since she was a young girl has altered her behavior from how trauma-free her life has been. This scene demonstrates impact of the lack of parental control and guidance in real life, and the implications of parental surveillance as it negatively stimulates the growth and development of Sara’s being.
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