Black Mirror – by J.

Episode 1, Season 4 of Black Mirror. (Sourced from Digital Spy 2018)

My mind immediately thought of the popular dark series, Black Mirror, when we began our topic of video games and virtual reality (VR). Episode 1, Season 4. The ultimate episode that accurately reflects our dreams, aspirations and fears about what could be our future of VR. 

Episode Summary (Warning: Spoiler Alerts!!!)

“By day, Robert Daly is the CTO of a tech-entertainment company, but by night he is in his own private cinematic universe — based on a TV show he watched as a child — as the commander of a starship exploring new worlds.”

Daly is portrayed as shy, introverted ‘office geek’ who collects the DNA of his bullies and creates their characters in his own private VR. In this sphere, his sadistic nature forcibly holds each character beyond their will in order to comply with his game. He uses his technology to dismantle body parts, shape shift, remove their faces, and cause bodily harm when they rebel. Daly enters his VR through an implanted head piece, which allows him to join and leave the VR with his own will. As the victims are a creation, they do hold and develop a conscience, however, they are unable to leave as they are only a minor creation of this technology. Eventually, the victims begin to rebel and find a way to communicate with the real world and destroy Daly by entering an infinite game portal, leaving him trapped in his own VR. 

My thoughts on VR and AI

The episode did an excellent job at highlighting the dangers of technology and our future of VR. Technology is open to the audience. To be manipulated and shifted to suit the desires of the user. And ultimately, this could be anything. There are no guidelines or limits to what a user could create. It is almost impossible to censor every movement and activity of those users who have the ability to create a vision of their ultimate fantasy. And this episode proves that in the way Daly creates a virtual world to induce violence and command power over his bullies. The most interesting aspect of the episode was the way the ‘characters’ of Daly’s VR had a conscience. The ability to think and distinguish between right and wrong. It was fascinating! Black Mirror uses this aspect in almost every season, and it is so relevant to the growth of artificial intelligence (AI). These characters awaken with their conscience, their own thoughts, and the ability to act with their own will. 

Recently, The Verge (2018) has found that robots are rapidly developing in the way they respond to human interaction and command. They are learning to ask certain questions in order to learn more about their ‘owner’ and they are beginning to beg not to be switched off. Whilst it seems crazy that a piece of technology could socialise and respond as a human would, Horstmann, a PHD student of University of Dusiburg-Essen, suggests “we react to [robots] socially because for hundreds of thousands of years, we were the only social beings on the planet. Now we’re not, and we have to adapt to it. It’s an unconscious reaction, but it can change.” (Vincent, 2018). The future of VR’s and AI’s appear to be something out of our control, it seems as if they could begin to develop a life of its own without human assistance.

I find this whole development of VR and AI to be promising. I think that these dangers that are highlighted through media plugs only increase our awareness for what could go wrong. It is important to understand these consequences in our race to create the best, fastest and most advanced forms of VR and AI so we can constantly reflect on what we need from this technology and how we can prevent such events from happening, and if we can’t, then the appropriate sanctions for societies wrong-doers. That itself opens a whole can of worms, as the Internet community will have to maintain an international standard across the globe for all users as well as meeting the societal expectations of non-Internet users. 

-j. 

Reference List
– Longridge, C 2018. “The ending of Black Mirror’s ‘USS Callister’ is much darker than you think'”. Digital Spy. Retrieved from: www.digitalspy.com/tv/black-mirror/feature/a846683/uss-callister-black-mirror-ending-plot-hole/
– Vincent, J 2018. “New study finds it’s harder to turn off a robot when it’s begging for its life”. The Verge. Retrieved from: https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/2/17642868/robots-turn-off-beg-not-to-empathy-media-equation

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3 Comments

  • Sarah
    Posted November 19, 2018 at 2:20 pm 0Likes

    Really interesting blog! I was thinking of writing about Black Mirror as well!! Really cool that you picked this topic. I think that episode wise I would have chosen Season 3 Episode’s 2 Playtest, as that is also linked to VR. Would you engage with the intense VR/AI concepts that are introduced in the show? Because I am not that sure yet, however cool it seems!

    • itsjesslay
      Posted November 21, 2018 at 4:47 pm 0Likes

      I think part of me would want to try it out just because its so new and exciting!! But I’d also be afraid if my replica developed a conscience and became depressed, or become angry and rebel/overpower the real me!

  • Sabine
    Posted November 20, 2018 at 7:25 pm 0Likes

    I do not believe AI’s can be conscious in the way Black Mirror paints it to be..
    There is a common misunderstanding on what ‘counts’ as consciousness…
    Usually when researchers talk about consciousness in an AI they talk about Intelligence..
    (In my opinion intelligence does not imply consciousness).

    That is why the AI control problem is quite interesting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AI-control_problem).
    The question is, does responding to commands, being programmed to respond in a ‘certain’ way, imply’s consciousness?

    I do agree that we need to do a lot of research on AI, set some kind of security failsafe..
    I more think of problems like this:

    If you have an AI and you give it the command to get a coffee… The AI goes to the starbucks and the person on the till says the coffee cost a 1000 euro’s. The AI does not understand that ‘we’ will not pay a 1000 euro’s for a coffee and pays the 1000’s euros with your credit card… or their are a lot of people in line and the AI sees them as obstacles, so gets rid of them… This all needs to be programmed and ‘secured’ . The fear is mostly in the prospect that an AI can get around these ‘fail-safes’, and thus will ‘dominate’ in their super-intelligence.

    I do believe AI and VR will be a valuable asset. A teacher told me once;… your the most critical to what you look up to the most..

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