There is just something about a show that can speak to your deepest insecurities and play on your biggest fears using something that is so deeply intertwined with everyday life that it feels inescapable. That is what Black Mirror does; through every episode, you’ll see the ugly side of technology and how it can backfire. That’s something that is a very real fear with the rise of Artificial Intelligence, but what happens when it comes true? In this list, you’ll read about ten times that reality was a Black Mirror episode.
In March of this year, Walmart filed a patent for robot drone bees. ‘Hated In The Nation’ was a wild ride from start to finish that detailed just how catastrophically wrong this could go if someone were able to hack these drones. But, these robo-bees, if successful, could be a great way to offset the decline of bees in the world that make our agricultural industry even possible. Walmart often applies for patents that never turn into realities, though, so there is no telling how far they’ll be taking this possibility.
Wiki Bot Wars
Wikipedia has grown so much over time that it only makes sense that they have employed the use of artificial intelligence to simplify its operations. The University of Oxford did a study on these bots and found that if two bots were given conflicting instructions that they will indefinitely go back and correct one another. These types of bots are essentially the bottom rung on the AI ladder and the issues between them can cause Wikipedia to function slower or even cause these bots to ignore other functions in favor of correcting one another. If bots on such a small scale can cause these problems, imagine the implication of this between more sophisticated machines.
Facebook AI Created Its Own Language
There were a lot of sensationalized articles about this that circulated, and while it isn’t true that Facebook researchers “panicked” and pulled the plug on what turned out to be some incredibly groundbreaking work, the AI in question did start to speak in a manner that we don’t understand. The two bots were created to negotiate with one another and they did so very successfully; however, they devolved from using standard English to use a shorthand that the two bots understood, but not researchers. This didn’t scare anyone at Facebook and the project continued with some alterations in the coding, but this shows that AI is capable of creating a language that humans can’t understand.
Smart Home Disasters
Alexa, play Despacito. While you’re at it, order hundreds of dollars of things my child asked for that I didn’t approve. Smart homes seem like the way of the future. Imagine, as if in ‘White Christmas’ (the best episode of Black Mirror, period), that you could have a virtual assistant controlling your home and making you comfortable. It sounds amazing, but there have been cases where people have been unable to do something as simple as turn on their lights for several hours due to a server failure, leaving them completely in the dark.
Uber’s Self-Driving Nightmare
‘Crocodile’ is another terrifying installment of Black Mirror that we can observe, in part, in the real world. Uber’s self-driving cars, much like the van in this episode, have failed in ways that have led to dangerous situations, at best. One such event even led to a fatality. A pedestrian was struck and killed in Tempe, Arizona when a self-driving car failed to stop. In addition, unapproved test runs of this technology in San Francisco showed that there was at least one instance of a self-driving vehicle running a red light in a busy crosswalk.
Messages From Beyond
‘Be Right Back’ is a devastating look at just how desperate people can become when faced with a tragic loss, but some people have been having some experiences off-screen. Well, it’s still on the screen, but… You get it. Several people have claimed to continue receiving texts or Facebook messages from loved ones that have passed on. This could be the work of hackers, it could be something truly supernatural at work, that can’t be cleared up so easily. The famous case of Emily messaging her boyfriend has been revealed as a hoax. However, some people’s stories can’t be written off so easily and are very unsettling.
The true story behind the aforementioned episode, ‘Be Right Back’ is that a woman named Eugenia Kuyda lost her best friend in a car accident. She built an AI that could be her friend, feeding in his information including conversations, social media, and so on. When she created it and saw how important it was, she created Replika. Replika is an app that allows you to build your own friend, essentially. It is an AI that learns everything about you so it can be your best friend. It’s very cool, our writers have tried it out. However, the origin of the product and how uncannily it mimics a human just puts reality that much closer to the technology we observe in the show.
Russian Robot Escape
Promobot IR77 in Russia reportedly made a break for it one day in perhaps the creepiest story in this list. The premise of Black Mirror is how technology can get so advanced that it gets away from you, most of the time with catastrophic results. In this case, technology was literally getting away. An engineer left a gate open, and the robot rolled right out into the street. It has been reprogrammed twice since then, but still continues to move towards the exit in subsequent tests.
Hackers Watching Webcams
Mark Zuckerberg, The Zuck Himself, covers his webcam and microphone on his computers. Granted, he’s a lot more mysterious and has a lot more money than most of us, so he’s a prime target for hackers. But, even he knows that this problem is out there and takes the most basic precautions. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ was a harrowing look at the consequences this can have on someone’s life and that’s not going to happen to all of us, of course. But, the thought that someone out there could be watching you right now for no other reason than to watch? No thanks.
‘The Entire History Of You’
‘The Entire History Of You’ is about contact lenses that record and store your life for you to play back whenever you want. Parts of that seem really incredible, but the reality is, you would probably replay the time you tripped in the grocery store in front of that cute cashier more than you would your favorite concert. In 2016, though, we got closer to being able to find out how we would really use this technology. Sony has been awarded a patent on a device currently in development that they have described as a “contact lens and storage medium capable of controlling an image pickup unit provided in the contact lens.”