Netflix's "Black Mirror" is a dark satire that explores how technology affects our humanity. It makes its points through exaggeration -- but not too much exaggeration. Some of the episodes hit painfully close to home, because the situations and tech they portray aren't far off. Here are five examples.
Season 3, Episode 3: "Shut Up and Dance" Perhaps the most gut-wrenching episode of "Black Mirror" finds a young man racing to meet blackmailers' demands after they use his laptop's camera to catch him in a compromising position. Guess what? This has already happened in real life.
Hackers can -- and do -- watch people on their own cameras. The U.S. Justice Department’s website tells the true story of “sextortionist” Luis Mijangos, who prosecutors accused of spying on more than 200 women through their webcams, and blackmailing some of them.
If you want to tape over your camera lens before you keep clicking through this gallery, we'll wait.
Season 2, Episode 3: "The Waldo Moment" A failed comedian voices a cartoon bear who berates politicians without adding anything substantive to the discussion. Voters love it.
Season 3, Episode 1: "Nosedive" This brilliant episode, starring Bryce Dallas-Howard, images a world in which everyone is constantly ranking each other. Rankings establish social status. Would you believe at least one country is already trying to make this a reality?
BBC News reports that the Chinese government is developing a "social credit system" that "compiles fiscal and government information, including minor traffic violations, and distills it into a single number ranking each citizen." One company, meanwhile, Sesame Credit, encourages its 400 million users to share their credit scores with friends and potential mates. China's biggest dating service, Baihe, promotes clients with high credit scores.
Season 1, Episode 1: "National Anthem" In the first episode of the series, a kidnapper demands that the British prime minister have sex with a pig on television if he wants to save the life of a beloved princess.
Brooker told "Fresh Air" he was inspired by the way real politicians humiliate themselves for the amusement of voters. "I was watching things like 'I'm A Celebrity' and there were people doing these degrading things ..."
"We've got a politician called Boris Johnson in the U.K. who's persona -- popular persona is kind of as a buffoon," Brooker continued. "And he showed up on comedy panel shows as a guest and would sort of dither and say outrageous things and look a bit crazy. And what that did was it made him kind of unassailable. You know, you can't humiliate him because ... he's inoculated himself to humiliation."
Season 3, Episode 4: "Men Against Fire" This episode repeats a contested claim from the book “Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command,” by Samuel Lyman Marshall, that most soldiers deliberately avoid firing on or killing their enemies because of their fundamental empathy and humanity. In the episode, an Army outfits all its soldiers with special lenses that make them see their enemies as inhuman.
We've been doing this forever -- and haven't needed special lenses to do it. Here's a link to an article about the anti-Japanese propaganda of World War II.