The following sets of slides are intended to show the relationship between current technologies/social implications/ethical controversies and real episodes of Black Mirror.

A reason that Black Mirror is so compelling is that it often builds upon our existing anxieties about technology and pushes them just a step farther. This is the perfect place to build from when using creative speculation to think through the possible consequences of new technology.

What follows is a description of an exercise that can be run with groups of students - or anyone, really!

1. Brainstorm near future technology based on a topic of your choice. It should be close enough that it seems like a plausible future.

2. What are the potential social implications and/or ethical issues and/or regulatory challenges with this technology?

3. What do you think might be a cautionary tale related to this technology?

4. What fictional person in the future could best illustrate this caution?

5. What is their story?

Example Topics

  • Algorithmic Bias
  • Recommender Systems
  • Self-Driving Cars
  • Government surveillance
  • Censorship
  • Free speech
  • Internet of things
  • Predictive policing
  • Facial recognition/analysis

  • Social media privacy
  • Data privacy
  • Online dating
  • Robots/AI
  • Intellectual property
  • Online harassment
  • Fake news/misinformation
  • Job loss due to automation
  • The digital divide

The following slides are both examples and can be used as templates for creating your own Black Mirror episodes based on this exercise. Note that you will need to make a copy of the deck first. Then just have groups replace the text and image!

Remember not to stop at this step… also have students consider what a “Light Mirror” scenario would be. How can we work towards preventing the negative consequences of the future they envision?

“Put On a Happy Face”

Plagued by an algorithmic error that crashed her social credit score, a woman becomes obsessed with looking good for the massive surveillance system that determines everything about her value to society. But when looking good becomes more important than being good, everyone around her begins to suffer.

Creators: Casey Fiesler

Image Credit: Pexels (Burst, free to use)

“Special Delivery”

In a data-driven, post-choice future, e-commerce algorithms know so much about you that everything you might want or need simply appears on your doorstep. But when one consumer becomes increasingly unsettled by the assumptions about his life that these deliveries represent, he wonders if what he really wants and needs is… privacy.

Creators: Casey Fiesler

Image Credit: John Cappiello, via Flickr (CC NC-ND-BY 2.0)

Please feel free to make a copy of this deck and modify it as you see fit! For questions about this exercise, suggestions on how to make it better, or to share your own experiences with it , you can contact Casey Fiesler (casey.fiesler@colorado.edu) or even better, tweet about it! @cfiesler

The Black Mirror Writers' Room: A Speculative Ethics Exercise - Google Slides