In our schools, we learn about the past through history. But in a world which is being transformed by new technologies, isn’t it equally important to learn about the future? Parthib Chandra, a Class IX student of The Levelfield School (Suri), explains why the Black Mirror series should be essential viewing for any student.
Philosophers have often pondered over the meaning of life. Is there a higher, divine purpose, or is life really pointless? But in ‘15 Million Merits’, an episode of Black Mirror series (2011), the purpose of life in the envisioned world is quite clear. It is to live life as a human electric generator, cycling a bike all day long to produce electricity, earning ‘merits,’ and to watch ads.
Skipping these ads cost ‘merits’. Shutting your eyes is not an option, since the screen can detect that, and will then ask you to resume watching. You cannot look away, because the screen will detect that too. Plus, there’s not much to look away towards — there are screens in every direction.
You can play video games, watch shows, or buy virtual items for your digital avatar. Everything we call natural exist only in screens. “Authenticity is in woefully short supply,” as one key character says.
But nobody seems to be bothered by this. Nobody wants to have a purpose in life. Nobody cares if they have to eat food grown in a petri dish. Nobody craves for reality. They just want a good hairstyle for their digital avatar. The screen is the world.
However, one person − Bing, our protagonist − is tired of this world. He longs to escape the virtual world around him. He wants to experience something real. So when he hears a girl singing a beautiful, real song from a past era, he is determined to help it spread. And he will do what is necessary.
But his effort is frustrated by the ‘system’. Enraged, he vents out his heartfelt emotions in a speech about the sheer lack of reality everyone is surrounded by. But that too goes in vain.
The world turns his emotion into a matter of entertainment. His authentic frustration is turned into fake fodder. He is made one of them. What can he do but accept that?
Such a world feels like an alien hellhole. But is it really so alien? Do we not waste much of our time playing video games? Are we not obsessed about our profile pictures and online avatars? The movie might, at first glance, look like an exaggerated version of our world today. But it really is an accurate description of the world we are racing towards.
And how far away exactly are we from the world we saw in Black Mirror? Well, it’s really just a matter of a few more technological breakthroughs.