The Entire History of You
“The Entire History of You (episode)” is the final episode of season one of the British science-fiction dystopian series, Black Mirror. The story is set in a futuristic universe where nearly all people have “grain” implants. “Grains” are devices, implanted behind the ear, that record everything a person sees and hears at all times, so they can play back any of their memories at any time. In this episode of Black Mirror, the main character Liam uses his grain to analyze mounting evidence surrounding his wife’s extramarital affair.
The protagonist Liam attends a performance evaluation for work. On his ride home, he uses his grain device to re-watch parts of his appraisal, and is seemingly troubled that it went poorly. Later on, Liam meets his wife Ffion at a dinner party with friends. He sees a man there who he doesn’t recognize—Jonas. Throughout the party, Liam appears to show disdain towards Jonas’s crude sense of humor and his affinity for Ffion. Jonas discusses his habit of using his grain to re-watch past sexual encounters long after they occurred; this makes Liam visibly uncomfortable. After the party, Liam invites Jonas over as a kind gesture, but then revokes the invite when he realizes his distaste for Jonas. When Liam and Ffion return home, he presses her to talk more about Jonas. After some prodding, she finally confesses that she and Jonas had been in a brief relationship years ago. Liam finds the timeline of her recount to be inconsistent in her story. Jonas continues to prod Ffion as he becomes more paranoid, and the conversation ends in a fight. Later on, Liam calms down and apologizes to Ffion, and they make up. Afterward, Liam begins drinking heavily and re-watching moments from the dinner party throughout the night. In the morning, Ffion wakes to find Liam is still awake and drunk from the previous night. He appears more frantic, and demands her to be truthful about Jonas. She refuses to answer and leaves the room, while Liam goes to Jonas' house to confront him. Liam punches Jonas and threatens him into erasing all his memories of Ffion from his "grain.” Jonas complies, and Liam leaves, drunkenly crashing his car. When he awakens and watches his recent memories, he discovers that Jonas had a memory of having sex with Ffion 18 months ago—near the same time that their daughter Jodie was conceived. Jonas heads home and furiously confronts Ffion, who admits to sleeping with Jonas at that time, but claims they had used a condom. Liam demands to see her memory of the event for proof, but Ffion claims she deleted it. Now even more hostile, Liam demands to see the blank space in her grain where she erased the memory. After heavy coercion, Ffion reveals her memory of the event, which shows in fact, that they had unprotected sex, which implies that Jonas is Jodie’s father. Distraught with all of his old, happy memories of Ffion, Liam uses a razor to cut out his grain implant, freeing himself from his memories.
Currently, devices such as Google Glass are the only products publicly available which are similar to the "grain", however, nowhere near as sophisticated. Google Glass is a brand of smart glasses created for the purpose of ubiquitous computing. The device contains a touch pad along the side that allows the user to control the device by swiping through the interface on the screen. Google Glass also allows the user to take pictures and video (storage-permitting.) The main goal of Google Glass is to allow users to stay connected to technology regardless of what they are doing. The device could conceptually allow users to stay connected to people through messages or voice, keep track of emails, as well as take pictures and video directly from their eyes. Some of these features lie in parallel with those of the fictional “grain” from Black Mirror, though much further behind technologically.
Ubiquitous computing devices such as the “grain” present a unique set of ethical dilemmas, such as privacy and deception.
The “grain” creates an invasion of privacy in three ways:
The first regards the degradation of personal privacy that comes with being recorded by every person one comes in contact with. A person’s appearance, location, and activities is essentially public knowledge, because it is being recorded at any given time by a stranger. If placed into nefarious hands, this information can pose a privacy risk. The second concerns the ability to record anything that the user views and watch it back as many times as desired. This presents a privacy problem because if the user sees something they were not supposed to, they have the ability to re-view it privately, unbeknownst to the people who were recorded. The third concerns the threat posed by having a grain stolen or compromised. As the device records everything the user sees or hears, it likely stores a great deal of sensitive information, that poses a privacy threat for the user, if stolen. With the increase of technological knowledge, it may become easier to hack into different electronic devices. This poses security threats as to how secure these devices are and that any hacker could hack into the data stored inside the "grain".
The technology embodied by the “grain” allows for the ability to view any memory at any time; this poses a risk of cheating on examinations or presentations or any other memory-based material. Beyond the essence of cheating, the deception and misremembering of facts are a significant aspect of life. In such a world as this episode depicts, having the ability to remember everything will only lead to psychological complications. .
This episode touches on humanity's lack of privacy progressing into a world of deep intimacy. As technology advances and revolutions are made, intimacy keeps on growing. Being able to hear, see, and be a part of someone's memory is a new level of letting an individual into your head. With a lack of permission and openness to new tech, this Black Mirror episode takes a step into the future of intimacy.
Living In The Past
Technology such as the "grain," introduces society to a new way of living: in the past. The characters portrayed in this episode are genuinely obsessed with living and having access to the past. The urge to go back and rewatch videos and reactions is very strong. It's a foreshadowing of a world taken over by this type of technology. A night where an individual chooses to re-watch and obsess over their day at work instead of going to see a movie. Being able to recall every action and memory one has lived through will eventually result in living in the past instead of the present.
Breakdown of Trust
With technologies such as the "grain", trust based on verbal accounts will cease to exist. People will only trust others' recordings and not what they say. As such, relationships will be strained due to a lack of trust between two people.
The potential benefits of a device such as the "grain" can lead to an increase in security for all citizens. Specifically for police testaments and eye witness accounts, people could potentially play back the videos recorded by this device in order to give an accurate testament as to what occurred at a specific time and day. People who are involved in robberies, terrorist attacks or rapes can use this data to better identify suspects and give police accurate data. Court verdicts will be more accurate and require much less time than is currently needed.
The "grain" can also provide people with a service that would make external video cameras and devices obsolete. The "grain" is capable of recording all events which will allow the users to minimize their need for video cameras when they desire to take photos and videos of their lives.
- "Black Mirror" The Entire History of You (TV Episode 2011) - IMDb). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2089050/
- The Entire History of You - Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Entire_History_of_You
- Google Glass 2.0 is a Startling Second Act | WIRED. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/google-glass-2-is-here/
- Google Glass is already causing legal experts to see problems. Retrieved from http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/google_glass_is_already_causing_legal_experts_to_see_problems
- ‘Black Mirror’: ‘The Entire History of You’ review. Retrieved from http://cultbox.co.uk/reviews/episodes/black-mirror-the-entire-history-of-you-review