Bioethics Blogs

The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: Virtual Reality

By Hale Soloff
Hale is a Neuroscience PhD student at Emory University. He aims to integrate neuroethics investigations with his own research on human cognition. Hale is passionate about science education and public science communication, and is pursuing a career in teaching science. 
Humans in the 21st century have an intimate relationship with technology. Much of our lives are spent being informed and entertained by screens. Technological advancements in science and medicine have helped and healed in ways we previously couldn’t dream of. But what unanticipated consequences may be lurking behind our rapid expansion into new technological territory? This question is continually being explored in the British sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which provides a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and warns us to be mindful of how we utilize our technology and how it can affect us in return. This piece is the first in a series of posts that will discuss ethical issues surrounding neuro-technologies featured in the show and will compare how similar technologies are impacting us in the real world. 

Black Mirror – Plot Summary 

Some of the neuro-technologies featured in Black Mirror at first seem marvelous and enticing, but the show repeatedly illustrates how abusing or misusing such technologies can lead to disturbing, and even catastrophic, consequences. This may seem scary enough, but what if the goal of a device was to intentionally frighten its user? 

In the episode “Playtest” a man named Cooper volunteers to help a video game company test out a brand-new device, referred to as a “mushroom.” After being warned that using the device requires a small, reversible medical procedure, supposedly no more invasive than getting his ears pierced, Cooper signs a consent form and the mushroom is injected into the back of his head.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.