On Sunday, a Daily Mail article made a rather sordid claim about British Prime Minister David Cameron: Namely, that he’d engaged in sex acts involving a dead pig as part of an initiation ceremony at Oxford. Once the initial shock of this prospect wore off, the Internet noted a striking similarity to a plot line in British dystopia Black Mirror, which premiered in 2013: In one episode, the prime minister was blackmailed into having sex with a pig on live television. And it turns out this is not the only scary thing in a Black Mirror episode to sort of become reality. For instance:
A comedian becomes a legitimate political contender (“The Waldo Moment,” Season 2 Episode 3)
- The show: A political comedian mainly known for voicing a cartoon bear jokingly enters a parliamentary election. The campaign takes on a life of its own, and the cartoon, Waldo, ends up almost winning. (He comes in second.)
- The reality: Since that episode premiered in 2013, this sequence of events has begun to seem less like satire. Take Deez Nuts, the comedian running in the 2016 election, who somehow actually polled between 7 and 9 percent across various polls in North Carolina, Minnesota, and Iowa—the best numbers for an independent candidate in two decades. (That’s not to mention the far more visible, also-cartoonish GOP candidate who is considerably more terrifying than an animated bear.)
A miniature camera automatically records and sorts everything you experience so you can replay your memories in the future (“The Entire History of You,” Season 1 Episode 3)
- The show: In this episode, a troubled couple lives in an alternate reality in which implants record people’s lives so that they can be replayed and rehashed.
- The reality: Google recently patented a digital camera that records live experiences, and then organizes them so that they can later be searched and replayed. The camera mounts onto a “wearable computing device.”
Contact lenses with built-in cameras exist (“The Entire History of You,” Season 1 Episode 3, “White Christmas,” Christmas Special)
- The show: In “The Entire History Of You,” contact lenses go eerily cloudy whenever someone is in the midst of replaying a memory, recorded by the implants behind their ears. In “White Christmas,” an augmented reality device called “Z-eye” gets embedded in people’s eyes, allowing, for example, a dating coach to communicate with a client through his eyeballs.
- The reality: In January of last year, Google revealed a pair of contact lenses outfitted with a wireless sensor. (These could hypothetically be used at some point in the future by diabetics to monitor glucose levels.) But in a more Black Mirror-y twist, they are also said to have tiny integrated cameras.
You can communicate with an artificially-intelligent avatar of your loved one from beyond the grave (“Be Right Back,” Season 2 Episode 1)
- The show: A woman’s boyfriend is killed in a car accident, and in her grief she turns to a service that creates a virtual AI of her partner based on his old online communications.
- The reality: Startup ETER9, (tagline: “Living Cyberspace”), founded in 2014, is still in beta, but it promises to learn from users’ online and social habits to create AI extensions of them, which would be capable of posting, commenting, and the like. These AIs would thus continue to “live on” even after the original users themselves are gone.
It’s only a matter of time before we’ll be able to block people in real life by turning them into blurry silhouettes.