Black Mirror This is what happens when you join the army of the future.

The mostly excellent British anthology series Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, is set in a future moment that's close enough to our moment to be shaped by its leading technologies (social networks, smart products). So far, the total number of episodes is 13. The first seven were aired in the UK on Channel 4 between 2011 and 2014. Six new ones were released by Netflix on October 21.

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Here is how I rank the most recent series from best to worst:

1. "Men Against Fire"

This episode is about a military occupation or operation conducted not by the US Army but a US corporation. Because corporations are all about efficiency and extracting the most value out of their workers, the abilities of each of its employees/mercenaries have been enhanced by a mind-altering technology. Anyone who loved District 9 will recognize important similarities with "Men Against Fire." A science-fiction story is always a maze with a revelation at its center. Deep inside the maze of "Men Against Fire" you will find not a Minotaur (that is bad sci-fi) but the very thing that makes us the kind of animal we are: the human animal.

2. "San Junipero"

A lovely lesbian love story that begins at the birth of the information age (the 1980s) and moves through time and technological changes to a moment a decade or so ahead of our times. The thing that makes this episode great is not its sappy story but, as with the best episode in the first series, "The Entire History of You," how technology is not secretly evil or has some dark secret but is believably embedded in the lives of the story's characters. "San Junipero" also has lots of great music and maybe the best dance-floor scene since the one at the end of Claire Denis's 1999 Beau Travail. And the tune played during this dance scene ("Fake" by Alexander O'Neal) indicates the nationality of this episode's creator. Though the characters in "San Junipero" are Americans (one is white, the other black), and the tune is sung by a black American, it was clearly picked for this important moment, the moment when the lovers meet for the first time in a mostly white nightclub, by a Brit. The clubs in the United States that played the funk of Alexander O'Neal were 100 percent black. The only clubs with white people jamming to O'Neal were found in the UK. White Brits, as with black Brits, always knew what's what when it came to American funk.

3. "Hated in the Nation"

This episode, which has the best cinematography of the series, and whose costar, Faye Marsay (she plays Blue, one of two detectives investigating a strange murder), has the most beautifully intense eyes in the series, is about very bad things that happen when humans replace extinct bees with miniature robot bees.

4. "Nosedive"

This episode stars Bryce Dallas Howard, an actress with a very real body, and is about something that, according to recent post in the Independent, might soon happen in China: "China wants to give all of its citizens a score—and their rating could affect every area of their lives." The problem with this story is that it's merely an accelerated version of the world we live in now. And so quantitative change does not really mean qualitative change. The world in the episode is exactly the one we live in (likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, credit scores, and so on) but all sped up. Intellectually, this is as interesting as pressing fast-forward on a video machine. Also, this is why not long after the episode was available on Netflix, the point plan of China's communist party was posted on the website of the British tabloid.

5. "Playtest"

Starring the son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Wyatt Russell, this episode concerns online dating, a nifty app for cash-strapped backpackers, and a bro who ends up in a video game. This one could have had a decent Twilight Zone vibe, because it had good scares, but that actor ruins everything.

6. "Shut Up and Dance"

This one is just rubbish. After being recorded masturbating to images on his laptop, a teen is blackmailed by some program or person on the web to do all of manner twisted things. What makes this episode bad is found in all of the Black Mirror episodes that fall flat: It's a morality tale about the dangers out-of-control technology.


Westworld

Now, for my headz with a memory of the electro-funk crew Newcleus, recall this line from the track "Computer Age":

"Computer age is now / Everyone must have a machine / They say it's gonna make life easier / Well, I can't stand it... / They say we should put them in control / Well, maybe next we'll give them a soul / I guess we must now think that we're gods / While we're less men than ever."

These kids from Brooklyn were rapping in 1984 about the exact same thing we find in "Shut Up and Dance," "Playtest," "Hated in the Nation," and the first episode of the second series, "Be Right Back": technophobia. These episodes turn on the idea that technology is not enhancing human life but taking over, disconnecting us from reality. This same theme is the foundation of HBO's very popular and very polished new reboot of the 1973 movie Westworld, about an amusement park of the future where robots are enlisted to help rich guests live out their cowboy fantasies.

In this TV show, as in the rap, we have become gods, we give our machines souls, the robots we created to serve us are beginning to control us, and so on and so forth. The best things about Westworld are found in the scenes that happen outside of the western-themed amusement park and in the science-fictional world of elegantly designed smart technologies (transparent tablets, machine-looking robots making human-looking robots, and sleek bullet trains). Why on earth anyone would want to leave that world and enter the dusty simulation of a frontier town beats me. Why this anxiety about robots or computer technology is still popular also beats me.

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We live in the 21st century. We know a body is not an individual but a community of organisms. We also know, unlike Westword's "brilliant scientist" Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), that life has not evolved from a series of mistakes but more from complexly interacting networks that make stunningly accurate decisions at every level of a living process and progression. We know that soil is not just the ground but a thriving city. Unmodified by worms and other life forms, the ground would be alien to us. If we go to the moon (the nearest world to ours), we find that its ground is made of grains that are glass-like. Because it has never been modified by a life form for some purpose, the glassy dust on the moon is ruled by the laws of physics that life has challenged and upset for more than 3.5 billion years.

If you get too caught up in the kind of talk that ruins everything, you will end up saying that the moon is "more natural" than our dear Mother Earth. There is nothing more or less natural than the mucus of a worm, the blades of a lawn mower, or the eyes of a robot.