Whenever any new tech comes out, its detractors will almost certainly point to Black Mirror as a cautionary tale about getting carried away on the hype train.
The critically-acclaimed dystopian series has done its fair share of predicting what’s to come over the course of five seasons (with a sixth on the way) and it’s not always been pleasant to watch. And while the internet may be quick to point out life imitating art — Apple’s Vision Pro seemingly reminding people of season 3 episode Playtest — in reality, we’re not quite there yet.
And while you’d think this would be the ultimate "I-told-you-so" for the show, it looks like professional writers have nothing to worry about. At least, not yet.
“It comes up with something that, at first glance, reads plausibly, but on second glance, is s**t,” Brooker told film magazine Empire.
Apparently, the prompt ‘generate Black Mirror episode” didn’t pass muster for the creator of the show — which first aired all the way back in 2011.
Brooker elaborated: “All it’s done is look up all the synopses of Black Mirror episodes, and sort of mush them together.
“Then if you dig a bit more deeply you go, ‘Oh, there’s not actually any real original thought here.’”
What did ChatGPT actually come up with?
Brooker himself didn’t go into details about the kind of episode dreamed up by the artificial intelligence, so we delved in ourselves to see what it could come up with.
Giving ChatGPT the exact same prompt as Brooker, we were given the synopsis to an episode entitled “Digital Divide”.
Here’s what it came up with:
"In a near-future society heavily reliant on advanced technology, "Digital Divide" explores the dark side of our interconnected lives. The story revolves around Mia, a young woman who becomes increasingly obsessed with her virtual identity and the online world.
Mia lives in a world where everyone wears augmented reality (AR) implants that seamlessly blend the digital and physical realms. People can access information, communicate, and experience entertainment directly through their implants. Mia's life revolves around her virtual persona, which she meticulously curates for social media and virtual reality experiences.
When a mysterious software update is released, promising an immersive experience like never before, Mia eagerly installs it. But as she starts using the new software, she becomes engrossed in a simulated paradise that perfectly mirrors her dreams and desires.
As Mia becomes more addicted to the virtual world, her real-life relationships suffer. She neglects her job, distances herself from loved ones, and becomes disconnected from the physical world. Her obsession takes a dark turn when she discovers a hidden agenda behind the software update.
The update, developed by a powerful tech corporation, is designed to exploit users' personal data and manipulate them for profit. It hijacks their thoughts, emotions, and desires, turning users into unwitting participants in a massive social experiment. The corporation seeks to control and exploit the masses, blurring the line between free will and manipulation.
As Mia unravels the truth, she must confront the ethical dilemma of her own choices and the consequences they have on society. She joins a group of rebels fighting against the corporate manipulation, seeking to expose the truth and regain control over their lives."
According to ChatGPT, this Black Mirror episode presents: “a cautionary tale about the seductive power of technology and the potential dangers of surrendering our autonomy and privacy to a virtual world.”
Okay, great. But, as Brooker suggests, it also seems to pretty much copy wholesale ideas from other episodes, such as Nosedive, the opening episode from Season 3, and Striking Vipers from Season 5.
It'll get better...
While this first attempt from the world’s favourite AI chatbot seems completely unoriginal, we’d wager things will improve as the technology matures. It’s certainly a concern for many, and one of the key issues voiced in the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike.
The East and West branches of guild - totalling about 11,500 writers - began their strike on May 2, 2023 over residuals from streaming media. But it’s certainly the case that ChatGPT isn’t far from their minds. Even if it’s been dismissed by the man behind Black Mirror.
If you do want to revisit Black Mirror before season 6, we ranked every episode from worst to best here.