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Opinion: Black Mirror’s ‘Joan is Awful’ is a cautionary tale of AI’s harms

Black Mirror episodes usually contain an element of truth but push it to ridiculous extremes – but the new episode “Joan is Awful” feels uncomfortably close to home. The growing impact of artificial intelligence (AI) means this episode could soon become a reality.

“Joan is Awful” features Annie Murphy’s character, Joan, who discovers that her life is being mirrored on a TV show featuring an AI-generated version of Salma Hayek. This disturbing revelation stems from Joan’s failure to read the fine print of Streamberry, the show’s equivalent of Netflix, which allows the use of biometric data.

The TV show’s creators employ a quantum computer to generate endless content about Joan’s life, effectively replacing traditional production staff, set designers, and actors. This portrayal raises concerns about the threat AI poses to the entertainment sector’s jobs and human involvement in production.

The episode highlights the intrusive nature of modern technology. Apps have increasingly gained access to our biometric data, such as faceprints and voiceprints, to tailor personalised feeds. With apps like TikTok already having access to this, we must be cautious and attentive when reading the fine print.

This form of data collection, initially aimed at enhancing entertainment experiences, reveals the hidden price we unknowingly pay for our amusement.

The episode also delves into our society’s fascination with scandalous and negative content. Black Mirror reminds us to consider the ethical implications of our entertainment choices. 

According to the World Economic Forum, only 27% of adults believe entertainment roles will face significant changes in the next 3-5 years. “Joan is Awful” serves as a wake-up call, indicating that this statistic should be higher. 

Black Mirror’s thought-provoking stories serve as a valuable lesson: we must not allow AI to seamlessly infiltrate every aspect of our lives. There is a need for education on AI’s impact and the potential risks associated with it. 

We must take AI seriously and recognise that our data is not only accessible to us but also to various entities. 

The concept depicted in “Joan is Awful” just shows you never know – an AI-generated episode might focus on you.

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