Black Mirror, the Netflix sci-fi anthology series, is known for exploring techno-paranoia and the effects of artificial intelligence on society. With the rise of ChatGPT and conversation on AI-generated screenplay circling about, it was only a matter of time before the show's creator Charlie Brooker toyed around with it, as well. Speaking to Empire Magazine, the acclaimed writer revealed that he prompted ChatGPT to write an episode of Black Mirror for him, which yielded disappointing results, with the bot simply mashing together existing episodes' synopses. This, of course, was expected, considering such AI language models are simply known for mimicking large quantities of existing texts and rephrasing them.
“The first thing I did was type ‘generate Black Mirror episode' and it comes up with something that, at first glance, reads plausibly, but on second glance, is s--t. Because all it's done is look up all the synopses of Black Mirror episodes, and sort of mush them together,” Brooker said in the interview. “Then if you dig a bit more deeply you go, ‘Oh, there's not actually any real original thought here.' It's [1970s impressionist] Mike Yarwood — there's a topical reference.” As with any Black Mirror episode, the test sort of reveals that the problem doesn't lie with the technology itself, but rather the person using it. Amidst the ongoing writers' strike in Hollywood, experts have opened up claiming that AI can be used to simply ease their workflow, rather than have the bot do all the work. It has also been the subject of controversy, with writers fighting to implement safeguards that would prevent their jobs from being stolen by AI.
Entering the most basic prompts won't produce viable results either. That said, by tinkering with the ChatGPT tech, Brooker was able to learn what not to do in future Black Mirror episodes. “I was aware that I had written lots of episodes where someone goes 'Oh, I was inside a computer the whole time!'", he said. “So I thought, 'I'm just going to chuck out any sense of what I think a Black Mirror episode is.' There's no point in having an anthology show if you can't break your own rules.” With the upcoming Black Mirror season 6, Brooker tries to subvert expectations, by deliberately upending his own assumptions about what's about to happen in an episode. Some Black Mirror tropes, such as the dystopian setting will remain, though Brooker and Netflix have stretched the parameters by going for a cinematic presentation.
Black Mirror returns from its four-year hiatus — thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic — with a star-studded cast that includes Salma Hayek (Eternals), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Zazie Beetz (Joker), and Annie Murphy (Russian Doll). Hayek is featured in the episode ‘Joan is Awful,' wherein an average woman is shocked to discover that a streaming platform has launched a TV drama adaptation of her life where she's portrayed by Hayek. Meanwhile, Paul partakes in an impossible space mission in an alternate version of 1969.
All five episodes of Black Mirror season 6 drop June 15 on Netflix.
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