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Lessons from Science Fiction Blockbusters: What They Teach Us About Technology

Don't know something? Just Google it! From articles, YouTube videos, and podcasts, information and online resources are just so readily available now. However, did you know that besides Google, there are many lessons to be drawn from watching TV shows and movies too?

If you’ve been searching for a new movie or TV show to watch that also offers an opportunity to pick up a technology-themed concept or lesson, you’re quite spoilt for choice. The science fiction genre has many great picks. But to save you time, here are our top picks for science fiction films and TV shows that teach a thing or two about technology.

Top Science Fiction TV Shows & Movies Offering Interesting Lessons in Tech

We’re truly in the golden age of film and television, with an abundance of readily available options thanks to Netflix and other streaming services.

Here are our must-see science fiction movies and TV shows.

1. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…A Death Star was built, which was all but indestructible. ‘All but’, because there was a tiny thermal exhaust port that leads to the main reactor. When hit, it would destroy the entire Death Star. As luck would have it, the protagonist in the story was skilled and had the ability to hit said thermal exhaust port accurately and destroy the Death Star.

In modern day technology, the thermal exhaust port would be referred to as a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF). Known colloquially as the IT Death Star, it causes a chain reaction of issues and shuts an entire system down should it have any issues or be a target of a cyber-attack. This could be your network devices like routers or a main smart home device.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to secure your devices by regularly updating passwords and making sure each device has been updated to the latest software and firmware.

2. Black Mirror

Almost every Black Mirror episode has at least one interesting teaching point about technology. Let’s explore 3 of the most relevant:

  • Everything we do and say online is permanent
    In the episode ‘The Entire History of You’, memories are stored directly onto a data chip known as the “Grain”. This can then be streamed onto TVs and rewound to relive moments in our lives. This means that there’s no longer a need for recording videos or snapping pictures on our phones. Sounds good, right? Even though the entire episode revolves around the science behind memory and forgetfulness, it did teach us one thing about technology – the permanency of the information we put out. Today, all these ‘memories’ we share with the world are hackable and can be exploited. Not as great now, is it?
    Although the Black Mirror series did indeed correctly predict the creation of a few tech advances - some of which exist today - the ‘Grain’ isn’t one of them. But why take the risk? With online dating scams and Facebook blackmail on the rise, always keep in mind the possible repercussions of posting anything online. It may just come back to haunt you, so think twice before you click ‘post’.
  • Many people portray someone different online
    Perhaps a more well-known lesson. When we jump online to social media platforms, forums and the like, sometimes we portray someone who might be different from who we are in real life.
    Black Mirror episode ‘Be Right Back’ explores this concept well. In it, a wife loses her husband and extreme grief drives her to utilise a new technology that extracts information from all his social media and other digital impressions to construct a digital version of him. While this virtual construct of her husband is great initially, it soon becomes obvious that due to the complete lack of flaws (which, let’s face it, are what make us human), it simply isn’t her husband.
    A key takeaway from this is when scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, remember that you’re only seeing what people want you to see - the best of their lives. So don’t compare your life to those you're seeing online. If you love content about social media, we recommend you catch ‘Nosedive’ as well.
  • Too much control might backfire
    The term ‘helicopter parenting’ is fast becoming a phrase used here in Singapore - especially with shows like ‘Tiger Mum’ and ‘Lion Mums’ being produced. The Black Mirror episode called ‘Arkangel’ explores the risks of being overprotective. With so much harmful content online, non-invasive monitoring solutions like Cyber Guardian allows parents to filter the types of content their kids can see. But how much protection is too much? The episode might not give you a definitive answer to this question, but it’ll definitely get you thinking.

3. I, Robot

This blockbuster starring Will Smith as Detective Del Spooner takes us to the year 2035, in a world where robots are ubiquitous assistants for their human owners. There are 3 laws of robotics (created by Isaac Asimov) which help to prevent an uprising:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

While we won’t delve into the plot too much, we will say it’s a highly entertaining movie from start to end. The underlying message, though, is that it’s important to maintain a human touch to keep technology grounded.

While automating lots of different devices can bring great convenience, there are a few things you might want to have full control over regardless. For example, caretaking should not be entirely automated. The iPal, a robotic babysitter was developed by Avatar Mind in 2016, and while it was a novel idea, the thought of leaving a child in the care of a robotic companion for an entire day might not be the best idea.

4. Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot follows main character Elliot Alderson (played by Rami Malek), a cybersecurity engineer suffering from a list of mental illnesses, including dissociative identity disorder, who works at New York City cybersecurity firm Allsafe. When he’s not at work, he acts as a cyber-vigilante, hacking people for a ‘greater good.’ As a result of his actions, he is recruited by a team of hacktivists called fsociety. Throughout Mr. Robot, we watch as Elliot and fsociety bring down one of the world’s biggest corporations. Perhaps one of the more interesting lessons in Mr. Robot is that of the most powerful hacking tools not found in the digital world. That is, social engineering, also known as social hacking. Social engineering is the use of controlled human interactions via psychological manipulation to trick people into divulging sensitive information.

Prevent this from happening to you by always remaining vigilant throughout your interactions with strangers - especially online. And if you find a random USB stick somewhere, throw it straight into the bin!

Choose Netflix for Black Mirror Episodes & Much More

If you want to watch some of these tech-related shows and more, you can stream Black Mirror and more on Netflix. We really can't recommend Black Mirror enough. Stream every episode of Black Mirror and you'll see why. And if you're looking for other science fiction movies and TV shows, get yourself a Netflix subscription in Singapore with M1 and enjoy the convenience of having your Netflix bill added to your monthly M1 bill.