SPOILER ALERT: This blog contains spoilers for Marjorie Prime and the Black Mirror Episode “Be Right Back.”
Swedish scientists have embarked on a project mirroring that of my current show Marjorie Prime, opening March 7 in St. Petersburg, Florida; the Swedes are starting to make fully conscious copies of deceased relatives, and furthermore, offering digital immortality.
In this Co-Production with American Stage/Capital Stage, it’s the age of artificial intelligence, and 86-year-old Marjorie is worried that her memory is fading. But when a mysterious and charming young visitor appears to help Marjorie uncover the intricacies of her past, questions emerge about the limits of technology and the possibility that memory might be a purely human invention.
This captivating sci-fi drama explores the mysteries of human identity and the limits – if any – of what technology can replace. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given a chance?
Art certainly holds the mirror up to nature, but often that mirror is looking into the past for eternal truths. In this show, however, the mirror is set on humanity today, as well as in the future.
Sputnik reports, “Swedish scientists are researching how to produce digital copies of those who have already passed away. Dagen daily has reported they are also planning to set about making robots which would resemble the deceased.”
Now, where it becomes entirely timed is with the rationale of the scientists, “...people stuck to a couple of pictures of their deceased relatives as the only memory of them, whereas nowadays, the technology could enable one to talk to a program which provides the image of a departed loved one, allowing them and their relatives to re-live the happy moments of their past,” Sputnik.
Black Mirror is an anthology series on Netflix that explores the space where man’s high-tech world meets is darkest instincts.
In the episode “Be Right Back,” an A.I. system is created to help people grieve. The episode tells the story of Martha, a young woman whose boyfriend Ash Starmer is killed in a car accident. As she mourns him, she discovers that technology now allows her to communicate with an artificial intelligence imitating Ash, and reluctantly decides to try.
The software mimics the user by going through their online history, their Facebook posts, and Tweets, and compiles a data file on the person. It then chats with the user to help them. The more information the A.I. has, the more it becomes the person.
Without giving too much away, after Ash’s passing his girlfriend Martha starts instant messaging the A.I, then she uploads videos and photos of Ash, so they can begin speaking. Since this is Black Mirror, however, the software takes a darker turn, and that I will leave to you to watch the show.
“When I came down the next morning, all Jacks photos were gone from that wall. She [his Mom] put them in the attic,” says Ash, “ that’s how she dealt with stuff. Then when Dad died, up went his stuff.” These lines are eerily reminiscent of Marjorie’s almost forgotten son Damien.
Marjorie Prime asks similar questions, in fact, one could argue these two stories exist in the same universe. Tess and Marjorie have their reservations, initially, of the software, but slowly warm to the idea that a computer program can imitate a loved.
Now let’s bring it all on home: the Swedish funeral agency Phoenix is currently looking for volunteers who would give the green light for scientists to replicate the images of their deceased relatives.
“You aren't you are you? You’re just a few ripples of you,” says Martha.
“I’ll remember that fact about Toni,” says Walter.
Brock D. Vickers
This is the beginning of a new part of life: a habit: an idea: a routine to dig at what makes a man great.