I watched this episode the other day and it truly left me slightly disturbed and thinking…
Here is the basic synopsis:
Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) are a young couple who move to a remote cottage, where Ash’s parents used to live. Ash is a big user of social media, tapping away on his phone, just a bit too much. Martha doesn’t really mind, she loves him and they’re looking forward to their new life together. The day after the move, Ash is killed, returning the hire van. At the funeral, Sarah (Sinead Matthews), a friend of Martha’s, tells her about a new service that lets you stay in touch with the deceased. By using all his past online communications and social media profiles, a new ‘Ash’ can be created – disarmingly ‘real’ and a help to a grieving partner. Martha is disgusted by the concept and wants nothing to do with it. Martha decides to stay in the cottage, despite her sister, Naomi (Claire Keelen), being worried about her isolation. Then one morning Martha receives an email from ‘Ash’. Sarah has signed her up. Martha is furious and deletes the message. But then she discovers she is pregnant and in a confused and lonely state Martha decides to talk to ‘him’. The programme mimicked his voice, and enabled her to have incredibly lifelike conversations with the dead man.
Things turned more bizarre when she uploaded “Ash” onto a lifelike body. The sex was better – or at least more efficient – but Martha missed what made Ash human: his unpredictability, his flaws.
The show touched on important ideas – the false way we sometimes present ourselves online, and our growing addiction to virtual lives – but it was also a touching exploration of grief.
I really found it quite scary as it is entirely possible to do this in the near future, but I am sure I would not want to be able to use this program although as the series displayed it does give you comfort in a way- however, it is false and always will be as you simply cannot bring that person back to life. It is nothing different to the way people try to speak to the dead through mediums and psychics – technology is just an alternative method- which is comforting but creepy at the same time. It also raised the question of what your own after-death persona would be like if it was based on your online presence.
After all the advent of the Facebook timeline means our profiles now serve as memorials after we die anyway. I was wondering what I would want to happen to my Facebook account when I die… because it is definitely as though a part of you is still living on in the virtual world – I feel that for myself I would not want it, but then I have seen myself the comfort it brings to others to continue writing on someone’s wall, going through old pictures or even tagging new ones.
Here is a screenshot of the form that you fill out via Facebook:
It is our policy to memorialize all deceased users’ accounts on the site. When an account is memorialized, only confirmed friends can see the profile (timeline) or locate it in Search. The profile (timeline) will also no longer appear in the Suggestions section of the Home page. Friends and family can leave posts in remembrance.
In order to protect the privacy of the deceased user, we cannot provide login information for the account to anyone. However, once an account has been memorialized, it is completely secure and cannot be accessed or altered by anyone.
I then researched below some of the tools that make the kind of device shown in black mirror possible:
“Weavr” — a piece of AI software, created using information from Ronson’s Wikipedia page.
In order to create a Weavr, a user must first create a profile on Weavrs.com. You can create one based on your own actual interests — feeding it with favourite keywords and geographical data about the places you tend to go. Or, alternatively you can scrape a Wikipedia page to create one based on a public or fictional figure. Once you publish your Weavr, it starts a life of its own, trawling social media sites and posting onto a central blog. If you wish you can also give your Weavr a Twitter account so that it tweets every time it posts to its blog, which it does around 25 times a day. You can then follow your digital alter-ego using your actual Twitter account to keep track of their digital adventures.
Weavrs feed off any platform with an API — including Twitter, Last.fm, Flickr, Etsy and YouTube — reappropriating pieces of content that other people are sharing. They then publicly blog about how they feel, where they go and what they experience. Weavrs are geolocated and will check in to venues on a daily basis using Foursquare. You can view the Weavrs in your area using the augmented reality browser, Layar.