Next week, Black Mirror will be a decade old. In that time, it has grown from a weird little British anthology show to a global hit, spawning no end of shoddy imitators in its wake. Perhaps its biggest legacy, however, has been its uncanny ability to tell stories about things that would subsequently become reality. But has every Black Mirror episode managed to predict the future? Below is every single episode ranked from least to most prescient.
In which someone tried to make a computer game in the 1980s. The technology to make computer games in the 1980s, er, existed in the 1980s. This was not Black Mirror at its most Black Mirror-est.
Starring Miley Cyrus, this episode saw the personality of singer Ashley O become trapped in a toy, Ashley Too. You can buy a 2008 Hannah Montana Christmas doll on eBay for about 20 quid. Buyer beware, though: it’s unlikely to contain the actual soul of Miley Cyrus.
Jon Hamm starred in this instalment, in which chips were implanted into people’s brains that “blocked” unwanted people by blurring them out. Nothing to see here. Sometimes even the awful world of big tech knows when something is a bad idea.
Another episode of Black Mirror, another chip. This time, a mother put one in her daughter’s brain to monitor her as a child and conveniently left it there, allowing her to see through her eyes. Another terrible idea that has yet to be implemented.
More chips. This time soldiers were implanted with microprocessors that dehumanised their enemies. No such chips exist, though soldiers have been taught to dehumanise their enemies without technology for hundreds of years.
In which a prisoner had her memory wiped so that she could be hunted for sport on a gameshow. Thankfully this one hasn’t come to pass, although two years after it was broadcast Channel 4 launched Hunted, a series where members of the public are chased across the country for cash, so it kind of happened?
A man learned that social media might be bad. We’ve known that for a decade and a half already – do keep up.
Online blackmail definitely predates Black Mirror, although to be fair they are increasingly intricate, like the one seen in this episode.
OK, we might be getting somewhere now. In Playtest, a neural network videogame learned players’ personal fears. It doesn’t exist yet, but that doesn’t mean that developers aren’t trying.
An embittered programmer tortured sentient digital avatars based on his real-life coworkers. It all seemed preposterous until Mark Zuckerberg started banging on about the metaverse – now it’s probably a couple of years away.
In this Nordic noir-inspired episode, robotic bees killed people who used certain hashtags. Last year, scientists created robot bees to help pollinate flowers. Hopefully the hashtag thing will come along soon.
In which a killer robot mercilessly stalked a terrified woman. Boston Dynamics already makes similar robots that can dance really well – which is even scarier.
The chips returned and this time they were recording our subjective memories. Frighteningly, this technology actually predates the episode; in 2014, a group of scientists used neuroimaging methods to reconstruct human faces from the memories of their subjects.
Back in the third ever episode of Black Mirror, the series creator and co-showrunner, Charlie Brooker, and co imagined a reality where people are implanted with – you guessed it – chips, which record everything their owners say and hear, allowing them to torture themselves and others by replaying their memories. Luckily these chips don’t exist, but an alternative might be close: in 2019 Samsung was awarded a patent to develop technology for a smart contact lens that can record video.
In which a machine allowed people to feel the pain of others. This hasn’t come to pass yet, but last year scientists inched closer to making robots that can experience pain, which is somehow much more terrifying.
This twisted romcom introduced us to a dating app that guaranteed perfect compatibility, but also told you when your current relationship would end. There is no such thing as perfect compatibility, of course. However, this year saw the launch of Birdy, a dating app where – rather than swiping photos – users are matched with people who have complimentary Myers-Briggs personality test results.
In Be Right Back, a grieving woman bought a robot who looked and sounded like her dead boyfriend. Again, thankfully, this hasn’t happened. However, in 2017 a woman named Eugenia Kuyda invented the Roman Bot. This AI program fed text messages written by her dead best friend into a neural network, giving it his vocabulary and speech patterns, so that she could continue to communicate with him from beyond the grave. So the robot might not be far off.
This pastel-coloured 80s paradise was in fact revealed to be a simulated reality designed for the elderly to remind them of their youth. Meet Rendever, a company formed five years ago to help the elderly combat social isolation with virtual reality “reminiscence therapy” that lets them revisit their childhood home or wedding venue.
Two friends played a video game with a twist: it let them sleep with each other. Meet Viro Playspace, a “haptic-driven virtual social space” where – with the aid of Bluetooth-enabled adult toys – VR users can meet virtually and have sex. One experience offered in Viro Playspace is “first time bi’, which may closely mirror the plot of the episode.
Daniel Kaluuya starred in Black Mirror’s second episode, in which members of the public earned money (in the form of “merits”) by riding stationary bikes that generated electricity. A year after broadcast, inmates at a Brazilian prison were offered a day off their sentence every time they spent eight hours pedalling bikes hooked up to generators. Additionally, pre-orders are now open for a new exercise bike that can generate electricity for the home. The Re:Gen, we’re promised, can charge 14 iPhones in the space of a single one-hour workout.
Mike Schur and Rashida Jones were behind this 2016 episode, in which social interactions were given an Uber-style rating. In 2018, the Chinese government began to test a “social credit” system in several major cities. The system punishes citizens who commit “untrustworthy” infractions of etiquette – such as playing music on trains, cheating in exams, not showing up to restaurant bookings or refusing to visit their elderly relatives – by docking points from their records. Enough points docked and you can be punished by anything from an airline blacklist to throttled internet speeds.
In 2015, an unauthorised biography claimed that, as part of his initiation into Oxford University’s Piers Gaveston Society, David Cameron once inserted a private part of his anatomy into a dead pig’s mouth. No corroborating evidence was offered, and the story has been denied, but it’s nevertheless a spooky coincidence that the first ever episode of Black Mirror was about a British prime minister who was blackmailed into having sex with a pig.
This episode saw a lightweight entertainer become the figurehead for a cynical populist political movement. Boris Johnson was elected as British prime minister on 24 July, 2019.