Black Mirror White Christmas

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Sooo… overall, I enjoyed the Brooker special. It was a nice dollop of horror in the festive season, a bit of a high-tech Tales Of The Unexpected. Or perhaps an update of one of my fave classic Brit horror films, Dead Of Night.

I can’t fault the acting, direction, mise-en-scene, all wonderful. The only problem I have is with the actual morality of the central story. Ultimately, they copy Rafe Spall’s character, Joe, onto a blank AI and then Jon Hamm’s character, Matt, interrogates him for five years.

The blank slate they copied him onto, the processor, gets patterned into Joe. After extracting their confession, the cops leave him on fast forward, trapped in his personal purgatory so “every minute is a thousand years.”

Firstly, that’s torture. Of a sentient creature. If you’re going to argue that the AI isn’t sentient, then that means any confession is invalid. What kind of person leaves a sentient creature in hell for millennia and fucks off to the pub?

Secondly, why is a COPY of Joe being punished at all? This sentient, this person committed no crime whatsoever! They actually didn’t exist until after Joe was apprehended and brain-cloned. Rather, shouldn’t you reward the AI as being the one to break the case, just a very special informant? The AI is innocent, why is it being punished?

Lastly, I do wonder what Greg Egan would make of all this. He covered all of this more than twenty years ago in the short stories in Axiomatic and the excellent novel Permutation City. The debt is so great that I feel he’s really owed a writing credit or maybe an “inspired by the works of.”