Black Mirror in the Rear-View Mirror: An Interview with the Authors
|Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
ALERT* – The following contains plot spoilers for the Netflix television series Black Mirror.
Sunidhi: An interesting way to think about this is to think about your current medical records. Who owns your blood test results? Neural data is physical data. It’s the same thing, just extending it to the brain. Companies owning that is a serious problem because there are always private interests that can manifest themselves in dangerous ways. The data should be owned by the person whose data it is.
Nathan: Let’s consider the more fantastical technology. Even if you willingly give up or sell your neural data through a very thorough informed consent procedure, if there is some sort of neuro-emulation, you have a digital self. There is no control after you make that transfer of ownership. The lack of control is why it is hard for even the most libertarian of thinkers to endorse voluntary slavery. We balk at that transfer of personal ownership. And I think for something as detailed as neural data, it would make sense for it to follow the same norm.
|Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Nathan: I think an unintended consequence of something like Black Mirror is an automatic increase in acceptance in these technologies. Even though a supermajority of the episodes, like “Crocodile,” “Shut Up and Dance,” and “Men Against Fire” end in death – or worse, like the perpetual agony in “Black Museum” – it gets the story out there. Just like science fiction always has. Even if it’s a morbid fascination it puts fascination into the public eye. I always see fascination inevitably garnering interest for technology to actually happen even if the first presentation of it was terrifying.
Sunidhi: I think it’s just a matter of time. People watching this normalizes it. There are numerous examples of technology that people kind of rejected initially and then slowly took in as more and more people accepted it.
|Image courtesy of Pixabay.
Yunmiao: This is more a philosophical question. What is the self? That question has been going on for centuries, and I think this is just another perspective to view or evaluate what the self is. Do you view yourself the same as you were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or 5 minutes later? The philosophical question sits on top of the potential technology and ethical issues.
Sunidhi: I think the whole ‘true self’ debate manifests itself in current technology. Think about Deep Brain Stimulation for depression, and how that patient changes. Are they being restored to who they were before? Is this a new person that was made by the treatment? Those questions are still present, so this might just be another interpretation of how those questions will present themselves in the future.
|Image courtesy of Flickr user
Somnath: People with backgrounds in ethics have had a visceral reaction to Black Mirror.Black Mirror is made more intriguing and more constructive when we have real discussions about the cross-pollination of fiction and the real world.
Proponents of these technologies, like those who are trying to make emulation happen, often contend that our hesitancy is driven by fear. They contend that progress is impeded by hand-wringing ethicists. We can’t ignore that the show brings a fascination to all these technologies, regardless of the grim consequences. That’s why ethicists do need to respond to the show. Ethicists do better when they get out of their ivory tower. At the same time, pop-culture phenomena like
Want to cite this post?