[SPOILER ALERT FOR S1E3 BLACK MIRROR]
I started watching Black Mirror about a year ago when the only episode on Netflix was the season two Christmas special: “White Christmas”. I was engaged by the dark visions they had for future technology and started watching the first season the moment it was released to Canada. While each episode is unique and has some sort of impact on me, nothing stood out quite like season 1, episode 3: “The Entire History of You”.
This episode focuses on a technology that allows users to record every moment of their lives and replay it at will. It’s an implant that goes right behind your ear with a display that goes right over your eyes like a contact lens. However, this is really just a representation of how we record every part of our lives digitally. All of our photos, our conversations, our opinions are stored online, often accessible by anyone.
The technology is shown to have numerous applications. The episode shows the technology used in security applications, namely replaying an entire week for airport security. It’s showed being used casually in conversation, the same way that one might pull out a picture. But primarily, we can see a strong negative effect the technology has. People are more anxious, replaying scenarios over and over again. We see the main character of the episode watching a job interview on repeat that he felt went poorly. It shows people stressing over minute details, even what they delete has to be carefully selected. We see the main character grow more paranoid about his wife cheating on him as the episode progresses, eventually leading to him questioning every part of his relationship, including his child. Every social interaction is questioned over and over and every poor choice is always stuck at the back of your head. The technology plays out like an anxiety disorder. While the episode explores many applications of this technology, the main focus is on the negative effects of a perfect memory.
This strong negative portrayal of the technology makes it obvious that I would hate to have this technology. While sure it seems cool (who doesn’t want a photographic memory), the negative repercussions are far too large. I would hate to live in this future.
Unfortunately, Black Mirror is based on alternate realities and dystopian futures where our current technologies are blown out of proportion and this episode is no exception. In fact, most of what this episode is focused on is actually portraying what we have right now, just far less accessible. The terrifying part of this episode is not that we might develop medical tech for consumer-grade brain implants, but rather that we’re already living with this technology.