A lot of movies and series have been coming out for the past few years that showcase a big interest in portraying sci-fi and extremely technologically advanced worlds or place extra features in our own world as we know it. One artifact in which facial recognition technology is really well portrayed in is in the British science fiction television series Black Mirror. Black Mirror is a series of multiple single-episode dramas where each story portrays a distorted reality of our world and everyday lives through the implications and effects of technology.
One episode that particularly caught my attention when it came to facial recognition technology was the first episode of the third season of the show “Nosedive”. The episode portrays a world in which people live with facial recognition software installed in their eyes as they constantly rate each other on a scale from zero to five using their mobiles for controls.
Clips from "Nosedive".The top one clearly shows the facial recognition eye-implant and the bottom one shows how people rate each other on their mobile devices.
People with the highest ratings are considered the best and top ones, the more sociable ones, rich and good-looking ones, whereas the ones with the lowest ranked ratings are considered the failures and the outlaws. These eye-implants pull up information on the person or people one is looking at, and their name, profile photo and rating, appear floating next to his or her face.
Snippets from "Nosedive"
“Black Mirror resonates because the show manages to exhibit caution about the role of technology without diminishing its importance and novelty, functioning as a twisted View-Master of many different future universes where things have strayed horribly off-course” (Worthman, 2015). I think that the ‘reality’ of Black Mirror is something more close to us than we think. It can resonate with us because the world that is portrayed is not that far away from the world we live in, which is what also makes the show such a good representation of today’s technologically culturally developed society. Even the technology that is used in Black Mirror is so appealing because of how sleek and modern they look, making even the viewers want it and even though they can be very concerning sometimes it is hard not to imagine having one or the other in your daily life.
There has even been a theory that Black Mirror is the one that actually predicted the new iPhone feature of facial recognition. Even though the facial recognition technology used in “Nosedive” is used to criticize, judge and rank people, the facial recognition used in the iPhone is for reasons of entertainment. However, there is definitely the mutual underlining concern, in both that the software used for facial recognition can end up being used against the person using it. If this is the case, then what else should we be expecting to see from Apple or other tech companies in the future that we have already seen in Black Mirror?
In his article Black Mirror and the Horrors and Delights of Technology (2015), Jenna Worthman argues that the show basically became a big deal only when it reached the US and was greatly advertised in the social media. And I agree with her because in a way, Black Mirror, used its own material to gain popularity because of how perfectly it portrays our relationship to and with gadgets, technology and social media: “the series fixates on our codependent and contradictory relationship with technology and media” (Worthman, 2015). Similarly in “Nosedive” one can see the codependence and the asphyxiation that exists between the main character Lacie, her phone and everyone else around her, whose lives are completely controlled by how they project themselves on to others and if their ratings are increasing.
It is interesting and kind of scary to see how many similarities you can find between our developed world and the very realistic world of Black Mirror. Many of us constantly share and update our lives on social media, we expose some part of ourselves to others, maybe change the way we truly are to show a better image of our selves, and we all expect someone to have some type of reaction to it and connection to it. We want to make ourselves appealing and liked and that is what most people in “Nosedive” do yet to a much greater and exaggerated extent. Facial recognition can not necessarily only have its advantages; opening doors to buildings, paying with your features and not needing to carry money or a wallet with you. Facial recognition technology can also prove to be used in our disadvantage and make our lives like the lives of those in “Nosedive” or even through the exploitation of the results of facial recognition technology.