When we think about the future, we imagine flying cars or holographic computer screens from movies like Minority Report. But we don’t always consider the ramifications of such advances. That’s where shows like Black Mirror and Tales from the Loop come in: they explore the ethical and moral considerations that spring from our relationship with technology. Here are 10 shows that play out the proverbial what-ifs.
Love Death Robots
In beautifully animated stories, Love Death & Robots explores multiple future realities where the relationships between humans and robots are commonplace. In some episodes, humans aren’t involved at all. You’ll contemplate the benefits of robot intelligence and the future of humanity when a person can meld their mind with a computer to battle in their underground fighting ring. Or a futuristic tale following robots as they tour a human museum in the long-lost lands of San Francisco.
The Animatrix is a series of animated short stories that advance the ethical complexities of The Matrix. In The Second Renaissance Part 1, a single robot kills a family after being provoked by his oppressive surroundings. The question of whether the robot has rights comes into play. “Who’s to say the robot endowed with the spirit of man did not deserve a fair hearing?” asks the narrator. This story and others like it will make you think about what constitutes a life.
Black Mirror is a series that imagines a technologically advanced society and its effects on the human condition. The show explores dystopian scenarios that are, in some cases, not too far removed from our current lives. One episode explores what happens when everyone’s actions are constantly rated on a five-star system, dictating their ability to achieve or succeed in life. We’re almost there.
Electric Dreams explores futures where humans live with almost fully synthetic bodies, or where farmers are not allowed to grow their own crops (sounds all too familiar). In another tale, a town helps you forget all of your troubles but in exchange, takes something from you that’s precious.
Tales from the Loop
“The Loop” is a facility conducting experiments that seek out alternate dimensions for scientific advancement. In the town that lives above the Loop, remnants of failed experiments affect the town in ways no one could imagine. One device is found that allows you to stop time; another causes you to switch bodies with whatever being is nearby. The fun comes in watching the unfortunate outcomes that manifest when tampering with experimental science.
This 2020 reboot of the original 1985 anthology series delivers updated tales of wonder and mystery. How “amazing” are they? Episodes include stories of rings that can turn you into real-life superheroes, weather anomalies that can transport a man through time, and WWI government conspiracies. Each episode explores the choices an ordinary person makes when they encounter something extraordinary. And once you’ve finished watching the reboot, you can go back to the original.
If you’ve already driven yourself into the depths of depression via a Black Mirror binge, consider Hulu’s Dimension 404, a lighter, goofier, cheesier take on the perils of technology. There are only six episodes, and they are a bit hit-or-miss, but there are some good ideas here — the pitfalls of dating apps, the price of unconsidered nostalgia for our youth (via a woman’s obsessive love for a ‘90s cartoon), the addictive nature of the online world (in a story about an online gamer who uncovers a performance-enhancing drug that allows her to experience real life like it’s a game) — and some recognisable stars, including Patton Oswalt and Joel McHale (Mark Hamill narrates).
This arrestingly animated anthology series, originally produced for HBO Latino, is rooted in horrific fables from Latin America. They are all extremely short — with runtimes of 2-3 minutes, you could binge the entire three-season run in the time it takes to watch one Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” special — but still effectively chilling. Ghost stories, tales of cannibalism, and mysterious murders: these are all strange, but supposedly true accounts of bizarre human behaviours.
Two Sentence Horror Stories
This anthology series, which debuted as a collection of short films before it became a regular series on The CW, was inspired by the spooky subreddit of the same name. The focus is on chilling tales that forefront diversity as they explore “primal fears.” A man takes his aggression out on women at work after his wife leaves him without a word. A serial killer who targets single women stalks one in particular after she rejects him. A gay teen with cancer is sent to a clinic for care — but perhaps not to treat his illness. In all of these stories, real prejudices and systemic oppression are twisted until their inherent terror is exposed.
The recent, Jordan Peele-hosted reboot of the iconic 1959 classic, The Twilight Zone brings sci-fi stories about morality to the modern age. A camcorder that can rewind time, but cannot save a young man from police brutality. A comedian who is literally deathly funny. A podcast that seemingly predicts every moment of a passenger’s plane ride. These stories hold a mirror up to current society, making viewers think in completely different ways about fate and circumstance. Unfortunately, the show was recently cancelled after two seasons, but it will live on in streaming perpetuity. (And you can always revisit the original, which produced plenty of timeless episodes.)