Saying a TV show is “so good it’s scary” is usually a figure of speech. With Netflix’s hit sci-fi drama “Black Mirror,” it takes on a far more literal (and terrifying) interpretation.
“This is futurism for futurists,” Dylan Hendricks, program director of the Ten-Year Forecast at the research organization the Institute for the Future, told Business Insider.
Part of what makes “Black Mirror” so unsettling is that its episodes take place in worlds that could easily pass for our own, save for some leaps in technology.
Curious just how big those leaps might be, Business Insider spoke with Hendricks about which of the show’s 19 episodes are closest to becoming reality.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Black Mirror.”
“The National Anthem”
Not every episode of “Black Mirror” explores a brand-new dystopia-creating technology; some take existing technology and apply it in disquieting ways.
In the pilot episode, terrorists threaten to kill a hostage unless the British prime minister has s***** intercourse with a pig on national television.
“I can’t think of anything that wasn’t realistic,” Hendricks said. At least from a technology perspective, “it’s totally possible.” (It also may have actually happened, if the stories about former PM David Cameron’s university antics are true.)
“Fifteen Million Merits”
The second episode in the series imagines a distant future in which people must pedal on stationary bikes to power their building and earn currency (“merits”) for food and entertainment.
Hendricks said the episode rethinks the entire nature of society based on the trend of “freemium” mobile games, create feedback loops of desire that keep people coming back for more. He said this episode is the one his colleagues find most satisfying to watch because it takes a real-world phenomenon to its most extreme.
“This is a very different alien society than the one we live in,” he said, “and one that has taken our phones and turned them into the built environment.”
“The Entire History of You”
In this episode, the show imagines what might happen if people could record every waking moment of their lives and rewatch the memories whenever they wanted. The device is called a “grain.”
Hendricks acknowledged no such technology is capable of tapping into memories so directly, but we seem to be inching toward such a future with devices like Snap Inc.’s Spectacles — camera-equipped sunglasses that can record up to 10 seconds of video.
Hendricks said the only leap the episode makes is saying the technology will get cheaper, better, and more widespread.