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    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Eldan's Avatar

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    Default Black Mirror Season 4

    Anyone watched yet? I just binged four episodes, out of which two were pretty good, one was really good and one was pretty thoroughly **** and incoherent.

    Specifically...

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    The first one, the Start Trek episode. Nothing makes sense. Why does taking someone's DNA give you their memories on a computer? Why does he have to keep the DNA in order to make new copies? Surely, the data is somewhere on his computer. Why can't he do anything about rebellious programs in his own mod? Why does he have to chase them instead of, you know, open a console? Or exit the game and change some assets? He's a programmer, for ****'s sake. And who designs a system that puts you in a coma when the program you're in is deleted? How did that get through even rudamentary testing?
    And if you gaze long into an abyss, sometimes the abyss blushes and looks away.

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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Black Mirror Season 4

    Yeah, the Star Trek one wasn't really their best work. Though I'm mostly just upset by the blueballing at the very end of the episode.

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    King of space, *****!

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    JadedDM's Avatar

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    Default Re: Black Mirror Season 4

    I just watched the first episode myself.

    Spoiler: S4E1 - USS Callister
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    Why does taking someone's DNA give you their memories on a computer?
    It's a common trope in sci-fi, and even Star Trek, that clones have the same memories as their originals. It makes no sense, but it's used all of the time. It may have even been an homage.

    Why does he have to keep the DNA in order to make new copies? Surely, the data is somewhere on his computer.
    Presumably, another common trope in sci-fi. No backups of anything. Delete the original, it's gone forever. Thus the need to keep their DNA nearby.

    Why can't he do anything about rebellious programs in his own mod?
    But he did. He could delete their faces, turn them into monsters, etc. I suppose what you mean, though, is why he doesn't just program them to be docile. Why even give them free will? And it's because he's a sadist. Remember what he said to Nanette, right after he turned Shania into a bug monster? "You know what makes me happy? Seeing your face right now." He wanted to torture them, as if he were torturing the real versions themselves.

    Why does he have to chase them instead of, you know, open a console? Or exit the game and change some assets? He's a programmer, for ****'s sake.
    My personal theory is he was so enraged by what they were doing, and so confident that he could stop them, that he didn't even consider that until it was too late.

    And who designs a system that puts you in a coma when the program you're in is deleted? How did that get through even rudamentary testing?
    I'm guessing they never considered the possibility that someone might hack the game to insert free willed AIs who might crash into the firewall to delete themselves. I mean to be fair to debuggers, that is a very specific scenario that would be very difficult to predict.

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    Default Re: Black Mirror Season 4

    Spoiler: Callister
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    I actually quite enjoyed this one. I'm inclined to think that the unrealistic and sometimes idiotic way the tech was portrayed was intentional. They were doing a Star Trek pastiche, and part of that is inane technobabble.
    The bones of the story were pretty solid, with Todd from Breaking Bad once again pulling off the mild mannered psychopath who initially fools you into thinking he's not one perfectly, and Poyle from Always Sunny just being as great as he always is. It's not hard to imagine a version of person scanning that actually makes sense, especially because they did something similar in White Christmas with Cookies. Replace the stupid crap they say with normal stuff and you have a fun and functional little episode.

    This wasn't a top tier episode though, particularly because I feel it continues the trend of the netflix episodes of not being "pointy" enough. What, exactly, did anything there say about literally anything in the real world or plausible future worlds? The human villain was an absolute psychopath. They could have made it so that he wasn't aware he was screwing with real-folk, or so that it was clear he was mentally dehumanizing them somehow (this is a perpetual theme in black mirror, that technology enables inhuman behavior by letting you not treat others as human), but it was repeatedly implied and stated that he knew these were real people and relied on that fact. The tech villain, similarly,
    was not a real world problem in any sense. One guy made a bad system that no one else has any access to, and when that guy dies the tech seemingly dies with him.

    The lesson, then, is that jerks are jerks who use their personally invented jerk weapons to jerk you around. Could we trivially imagine changes to the episode that let it generalize a lot better? Of course. But what we actually have in front of us doesn't directly say all that much. Old black mirror would have at least made this generally available tech,
    but it's almost like they're scared of that. Scared of that feeling of culpability that made some of the old episodes so compelling. This is also a problem with the only other fourth season episode I saw, Arkangel, which I'll talk about in another spoiler, and it was a problem with a lot of the third season too in my opinion. Compare Playtest to, say,
    Be Right Back. Be Right Back is like a damn sword of pointedness, where Playtest is like a void of meaning with some cool visuals.

    Still, in spite of the lack of point, I thought this was fun. Good acting, some really good scenes (that scene where she splashes wasshisname is in itself a work of art, with each individual splash encoded with like three different meanings), and a well executed reveal.


    Spoiler: Arkangel
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    This episode, by contrast, I thought was idiotic. The daughter's attack made little to no sense in context, the face blurring thing was setup as the super weird and stressful technological overreach before being completely dropped in favor of simple spying (except for that attack scene, where it served largely metaphorical purpose), and the daughter going missing was undercut by the fact that she's probably gonna be found soon. Like, she has a chip in her head that can be made to interface with screens which can, in turn, be set to whatever kid you want, seemingly. Would finding the discontinued screen and getting someone to reset it or whatever be trivial? No, but it seems nowhere near impossible. Meanwhile, teens go missing and then get found in reality. Seems a lot easier to do the finding in a world where you can use a picture to find someone's place of work.

    And, as with Callister, they weirdly chose to not generalize this. The product was discontinued, so this is something, first, obviously unethical, and second, unethical enough that the future world figured that out anyway. Oh man, how horrifying this future is, where clearly awful things are successfully identified as clearly awful and removed from the market. Be Right Back began and ended with this sometimes problematic tech on the market and used by people broadly. Society is partially culpable for the situation she faces. Only a jerk mom is culpable here. Which sucks. Part of the fun of Black Mirror is that we all get to point the finger at ourselves, as opposed to these episodes where we can sit high in our towers, safe in the knowledge that these people aren't us, that their society isn't our society. I didn't hate that moment in the moment, where Black Mirror featured some sense of positive societal progress, but it really undercut a lot of the show's, y'know, cut.


    I feel like I'm putting a lot of weight on these factual and moral elements. The episode also, in my opinion, sucked normal style. The conflicts felt perpetually stupid, not just stupid in retrospect or at the end. Tech gone wrong should feel like both an awful slippery slope and like a beautiful and tantalizing thing. I know, with near perfect truth, that I will never want to censor stressful real-world things from my hypothetical daughter's vision. Because that's insane. And when I say insane, I mean in a baseline functional sense, not in the, "This could never happen," sense represented by some of the tech babble in Callister. This is technology that will keep knowledge of an angry dog from your kid up until it bites her leg off. It'll keep her from knowing that a honking car is coming at her until she gets run over. It'll stop her from being able to identify anyone attacking her, determine the nature of any wound on herself or others, or deal with literally any stressful problem constructively until said problem is no longer stressful.

    And this is what I, a hypothetical overprotective single mother, want for my daughter. What? GPS tracking? Sure, makes total sense. Visual access, I dunno, maybe. I couldn't imagine getting it for myself, but I could imagine wanting it, and I could imagine others getting it. It's like GPS tracking with some extra creepy juice. There's utility there. Health tracking? Sure again, cause who wants to get constant checkups, and who doesn't want that info? And, notably, this kinda applies the other way. As a kid, I would have likely been annoyed but not angry about GPS tracking (especially because it wouldn't have impacted me overmuch unless I was kidnapped), totally fine with health updates (though I'd prefer the ability to choose to get said updates on demand, instead of just having the flow of info), super angry about the perpetual surveillance (but it'd be an explicable overreach), and I would feel nothing about the blurring because it would never happen in a billion years.

    It's a seeming nitpick that strikes right to the conflict's center, and makes it all seem fake and idiotic. If I could never imagine anyone wanting it, what fear should I have of a world where it's available (this specific use of the tech, not the tech in general, because the "Make people not see things" tech has been a reasonably effective black mirror staple)? If the conflict is idiotic, then that means the mother, who chooses to bring the conflict on her own head, is idiotic, and the people who made the tech, who thought this remotely reasonable, are idiotic too. Add it all together and you get an idiot plot. Which is bad.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2018-01-04 at 11:17 PM.

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    Eldan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Black Mirror Season 4

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    I wouldn't say he's even that much out there in terms of psychopathy, just enabled by technology. People have been writing revenge-fiction about each other for about as long as there's been writing. Or putting each other in paintings as torture victims in hell or similar. Sex fantasies involving real people are not exactly uncommon, either.The only novel thing is that his revenge-fiction has sapience.

    I just think the story didn't hold up to me. The bad tech was distracting and everything just felt a bit too drawn out and badly paced. Even if there was maybe a decent idea in there.

    Honestly, a bit like I feel about Star Trek


    I was mostly fond of the other episodes, though. Well, the dating one wasn't great, but passable.

    Spoiler: Arkangel
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    I quite liked this one, actually. Yes, the blurring went too far, didn't make much sense and wouldn't be done. Ever. (Well, maybe for nudity. Some people are weird like that.)

    The story would probably have held up better if the blurring wasn't a plot point. Just the tracking. That would have made everything in the story work just as well except for a few small details.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2018-01-06 at 01:59 PM.
    And if you gaze long into an abyss, sometimes the abyss blushes and looks away.

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