In the Dark (aka: Hiding From the Black Mirror)

Quick! Come inside and close the door. Yes, I know it’s dark in here. No no — don’t touch that light switch! Here, sit close to me, and I’ll light a few candles. Better?

Why are we whispering? Well, it’s a complicated story. It all began about two weeks ago, when I discovered this television show on Netflix. It’s called…here, I’ll write it down for you:

BLACK MIRROR

black-mirror-logo

Shhh…don’t say it out loud! Are you nuts? They’ll hear you!

Oh, now I’m being paranoid? Well, you would be, too, if you’d seen the horrors I saw. Every single episode. All four seasons. I can’t believe I made it through alive.

White Bear

How do I explain Black Mirror? Well, it’s so real. And yet, somehow, not real. Imagine our everyday human lives and social experiences becoming so intertwined with technology, that we become dependent on it. Imagine technology determining where you will work, what neighborhood you will live in, who your friends will be. Imagine parents following their children’s every step via an app. Or having the ability to record every memory, every moment of your life, and being forced to recall those moments for other people. Imagine someone stealing your DNA, then using it create a digital copy of you. Imagine being spied on by an organized group of hackers, who then blackmail you into committing atrocious acts while they watch.

Entire History of You

That is the world of Black Mirror. Or is the the real world, as reflected by Black Mirror?

What’s that? You want to watch Black Mirror, too? Have you learned nothing from this conversation? Well, okay. It’s available for your Netflix bingeing pleasure. But here’s a tip: don’t try to watch it all at once. A couple of episodes at one time are enough to leave you disturbed and anxious. Also, feel free to watch it out of order.

Hang the DJ

What’s that? Which episodes were my favorites? Tough question. Here’s my Top 10 ranked list, from best to worst.

  1. Hang the DJ
  2. USS Callister
  3. Nosedive
  4. White Bear
  5. Shut Up and Dance
  6. Be Right Back
  7. San Junipero
  8. Metalhead
  9. Arkangel
  10. The Entire History of You

Ack! What are you doing? Put away that iPad! If you’re going to watch Black Mirror, then you’ll have to do it somewhere else. This is now a technology-free zone. Yes, I’m serious. No cell phones, no tablets, no Alexa, no IoT devices of any kind allowed here in my safe space. Got it?

Oh, it’s just a TV show, you say. It’s not real. None of those things could ever happen in real life.

*Unplugs you*

I think I’ll read a book now…

 

 

Rise of the Machines (aka: The IoT)

Imagine this: It is 6:00 in the morning, and a gentle, Siri-like voice begins to speak from a recessed speaker mounted in your bedroom wall.

“It’s time to wake up, Dave,” she says. (Your name, of course, is Dave). As the minutes tick past, and you still don’t rouse, her voice becomes a bit sharper. “Wake up, Dave,” she says, “or the alarm will sound in ten seconds.” Ten seconds later, your bedroom lights flash, and a shrill alarm begins to sound. As you finally sit up in bed, stretch, and yawn, the alarm abruptly stops, as sensors in your Fitbit-type wearable device register your alert state.

“Shall I start your coffee for you, Dave?” asks the house computer, her voice once again calm and serene. You give your consent and head for the bathroom, which triggers the shower to begin streaming water at a perfect 105 degrees Fahrenheit. As you continue your morning routine, your smart house warms your floor tiles, fills you in on the news, and informs you of traffic conditions before you head out the door for work.

Sounds cool and futuristic, right? Like some impossible, sci-fi novel dream?

The Jetsons future

“But all of those things can already happen,” says one of my kids in a bored tone. “The technology already exists for all of that.”

“Also, it would be lame,” said another of my kids, “because a hacker could just break into your smart home system and start playing jump scare sound effects or make you wake up to the Hamster Dance song.”

“Or make all your lights flash at two in the morning,” said another of my kids. “Or make your water freeze in the middle of your shower. Or change the computer voice so that it sounds like Fred Figglehorn.”

This is true. (And would be totally funny if it happened to someone who was not me). And my kids are right — most of these are not unattainable ideas, and in fact, already have the technology to make it so. If you’ve got the money, you can actually turn your house into a Star Trek-worthy, super-connected smart house where numerous electronic devices talk to each other and interact with you via your home wireless network. Welcome to the IoT, or Internet of Things, the fastest growing and hottest buzzword I technology today.

Internet of Everything

Of course, when you work in the IT industry, your tech-savvy kids tend to become fluent in current tech concepts, and the IoT is as familiar as Chroma keyboards and wireless 802.11 ac routers. They also learn to become aware of the need to secure one’s home network, smart or not, from intruders of the malicious, or just plan mischievous kind.  Whether or not you speak geek, the IoT is here to stay, and already taking a prominent role in our lives.

Mother and daughter making dinner using futuristic interface

But it is certainly not without its security risks. Just as people are slowly learning that one must do with personal computers, it is imperative to educate ourselves about the potential risk of attacks on home networks and cloud-connected smart tech devices. Not sure where to start? Check with your device manufacturers or internet service provider for ideas. Read some of the great free information provided by the FCC and others about how to protect your home network from outside intruders. Create strong passwords to protect your IoT devices. Keep software updated and patched. Need more ideas? Well, you can always ask Siri.