The Sci-Fi Novel is a science fiction blog by Andrea Elisabeth Kovarcsik. Her posts explore the 100 best sci-fi novels, as well as sci-fi theory, themes, philosophies, and more.

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Black Mirror: Blocking

Hi There!

In this post I'd like to talk about the idea of blocking, as in blocking someone from calling you or emailing you. The reason I'm interested in this idea at the moment is because I recently saw an episode of Black Mirror. Now, I'm not going to comment on movies and TV shows too often on this blog in order to maintain the focus on science fiction novels, but every once in a while, if I'm really captivated by something I see, I definitely will.

I won't get into explaining the entire episode (if you haven't seen Black Mirror definitely check it out), but basically what happens is at the end of the episode Jon Hamm's character is charged with a crime and given a punishment. That punishment is being blocked. 

What Is Blocking?

Blocking means that Hamm's character can't see anyone. Rather, he can only see the forms of people totally blocked out in red. He can't hear anyone, see anyone, talk to anyone, or interact in any way with anyone. And when other people look at him, they see the same thing. This is how they know that he's a criminal. This blocking ability is explained earlier in the episode when we find out that everyone has a special chip in their eyes that allows for this. 

This episode really takes the idea of blocking a number on your phone and blocking an email address to the next level. Individuals can actually choose to block a single person in this way. But right now I'm more interested in what this would look like as a sentence. Let's try to break it down.

The Modern Justice System

Today when we commit a crime we are sent to jail. This denies us freedom of movement and interaction with friends and family. And in solitary confinement you unfortunately are even more restricted in your human interactions.

(You don't need to be in jail though to have your movement restricted. Under communist Hungary, for example, you could only leave the country once every two years.)

So anyways, the basic punishment in our world today is the restriction of movement and removal from society. But usually, even in prison, you can interact with other people, just probably not the people you'd like to be interacting with. And there is the hope that one day you'll be able to rejoin society.

The Future Justice System: Eternal Solitary

With the form of blocking shown in Black Mirror, though, your movement is not directly restricted, your interactions are. You can't interact with anyone ever. It's a different version of solitary. For all intents and purposes, you are the only person on the planet. And as such, your movement is indirectly restricted because if you can't interact with anyone then you can't buy bus tickets, or go to a restaurant, or get on a plane, etc. 

I'm not sure of the extent to which the show's writers thought this blocking punishment through. It seems to me that if you are blocked in this way you wouldn't even be able to buy groceries since you couldn't interact with the cashier. Your only hope would be a supermarket with a self-checkout option. Most supermarkets these days have this technology, so groceries and other household items might not be such a big problem after all.

As for work, obviously you couldn't hold a regular job with this blocking in place. By regular, I mean anything that requires going into an office and interacting with colleagues. However, there are plenty of work options that don't require you to interact with anyone while completing the work. Presumably the government would mandate something like that for a blocked person. Otherwise there would be no point in releasing said person back into society.

I'm curious how TV and movies would work. Does the blocking translate from real, physical interactions to the screen? Dam, that would really suck if you couldn't watch any TV or movies. And what about using the computer and surfing the net? Again, you probably wouldn't be able to watch anything on the computer, but you might still be able to write, work in Excel, etc. And of course, you'd still be able to read. :)

The one upside of this punishment would be that you could still go outside for a walk wherever you wanted. So cabin fever might not be a problem here. But still, this punishment inevitably leads to a very lonely life. Think I Am Legend.

I think this blocking is infinitely worse than simple restriction of movement and removal from society. Now, I've never been to jail so I could never comment on how hard it is in there. But just knowing myself, I think I would certainly lose my mind in record time if I had this blocking inflicted upon me. The more I think about it, the more frightening it seems. Of course, it's good to be alone sometimes. But humans are social animals. A lifetime of solitary is sure to drive anyone into madness. It really would be the ultimate punishment: so close to others, yet so far away.


What do you think about the blocking of Black Mirror? Leave your comments below!





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