We’re over a month into the Writer’s Guild of America Strike, and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker has set out to prove exactly why we need human writers, not robots. With the release of the show’s sixth season on Thursday, June 15th, Brooker decided to test his hand at using ChatGPT to write an episode.
How did it do? In a word: terrible.
An artificially-produced television show sounds like the plot of a Black Mirror episode, not something out of real life. But today’s screenwriters must contend with AI-generated scripts and the grave threat of job replacement, which have both led to the recent strike. In fact, in 2020, show creator Charlie Brooker halted production of Black Mirror entirely because, in his eyes, “we’re already living it.”
However, three years later, the new season is finally released. It’s unclear how much of the plot will feature AI, but Brooker still took it upon himself to explore the concept. Shortly after the development of Black Mirror season 6, he decided to have ChatGPT write an episode. In an interview with Empire, he says: “The first thing I did [with ChatGPT] was type ‘generate Black Mirror episode,’ and it comes up with something that, at first glance, reads plausibly, but on second glance, is shit.” In other words, the writing may be functional, but it lacks heart. Who would’ve guessed?
A New Season
While Brooker’s AI-generated episode won’t be part of season 6, the official trailer gives us a good idea of what the new episodes will entail.
Season 6 of Black Mirror offers five new episodes. In order, we have: “Joan is Awful,” “Loch Henry,” “Beyond the Sea,” “Mazey Day,” and “Demon 79.” Given the show’s history, we can be sure that the episodes will be memorable, with plenty of jaw-dropping twists. These episodes have plenty of variety, from space travel to celebrity drama.
Additionally, Brooker said that he wants to switch things up this time around. “I was aware that I had written lots of episodes where someone goes ‘Oh, I was inside a computer the whole time!'”, he told Empire,
“So I thought, ‘I’m just going to chuck out any sense of what a Black Mirror episode is.’ There’s no point in having an anthology show if you can’t break your own rules. Just sort of a nice, cold glass of water in the face.”
So, unlike ChatGPT, Brooker’s writing will have us on our toes! Unpredictable, unique, and endlessly creative, season 6 of Black Mirror is sure to be a hit.
The Future of Writing
Is AI-generated writing a real threat to screenwriters and novelists? Currently, no.
As we saw with Brooker’s experiment, computer-generated writing is predictable and cliché. AI, as of now, is not capable of creating unique or creative stories. Instead, it just takes pieces of previously-existing media and cobbles them together to result in something vaguely readable. In Brooker’s review of ChatGPT, he proclaims: “All it’s done is look up all the synopses of Black Mirror episodes and mush them together. Then if you dig a bit more deeply, you go, ‘Oh, there’s not actually any real original thought here.'”
There’s no way to be sure how quickly AI technology will develop. Already, we’ve seen vast leaps in development, some of which could turn sinister in the wrong hands. If ChatGPT, for example, evolved to the point where it could write an original full-length TV show, company executives may use it to avoid labor costs and opinionated workers. In Brooker’s words, it is a “parasitic impersonator.” This, in essence, is exactly why the Writers Guild of America is striking. Until there is a promise of job security in writing, no conclusion can be drawn.
However, no matter how advanced this technology may become, artificial intelligence cannot replace the inherent humanity of storytelling. The reason we write is not to create content or make money but rather to connect with other human beings. No screen (or black mirror) can replace a human brain, heart, or soul.
Black Mirror season 6 is now available on Netflix! To read more about AI and the Writers’ Strike, click here.