Black Mirror & Ethical Innovation

I don’t watch much TV, but I am currently hooked on the sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror. With three “seasons” on Netflix, it’s easy to binge-watch, but I recommend letting each episode settle and digest. I’m still digesting the first episode, to be honest. Set in the near-future, each dystopian episode leaves you questioning how technology is affecting our daily lives. We already know our tech-obsessions can’t end well, and Black Mirror shows us exactly how.

In the episode, “The Entire History of You,” everyone has an implanted chip that enables people to record everything they see, preserving memories for life. You’re also able to share with everyone else. Comparable to many other sci-fi films, I find it especially haunting since it reflects current behaviors in addition to emerging technologies.

Although I hate Snapchat, it’s easy to spot trouble behaviors. People get wrapped up in a crazy, cool event, record it all live for Snapchat, then rewatch over and over, for more than 24 hours if desired (note: I have only ever once used Facebook or Instagram Live, and that was for the Trump Protest on November 9, and I doubt I will ever use it again). We could live in the moment… or we could share it with all our friends and family, and save it to savor forever.

When consumers thrive on these behaviors, technology will continue to be developed to support consumers, thus producing the chip as in Black Mirror. It’s no surprise how this can end badly, yet the reward is still higher than the risk for most consumers.

Black Mirror was first aired in 2011, and Snapchat Stories weren’t launched until 2013. Like I said, I was probably one of the last Millennials to get Netflix, but I was surprised by this. My teenage self couldn’t have predicted how my snapping behaviors would evolve in a few years. The growth of Snapchat proves that social media is more than a way to connect: it’s a way of life.

Mixed reality is growing as well, and, of course, Snapchat is leading with Spectacles. Don’t forget Sony’s Smart Lenses.

You can watch Black Mirror for more examples of impending doom, or you could read this.

As early adopters, what behaviors will we encourage and practice ourselves? I worry about some professionals ditching social media completely to be more “present.” While this may be good personally, those people will soon be out of touch with the way communication is changing exponentially. If you’re not part of the conversation, you’re missing valuable insights, especially if working in the tech or digital landscape.

So many companies pursue moonshots for the next great technology, but ethical innovation is vital for every step of the way, even for smaller projects.

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