5 Movies and TV Shows that can teach you about tech!
We’ve all heard that tech is the future and that we should learn something about it. But there’s a difference between thinking it and actually doing it. After a long, hard day at work, it’s just so much more appealing to vegetate in front of a screen, consuming content from our favourite streaming service.
Well, if starting an online coding course is a bridge too far, check out the following recommendations of TV shows and films that can teach you a thing or two about tech and make your daily viewings less of a guilty pleasure.
While you sit back and enjoy the movie, remember to learn something! PHOTO: UNSPLASH.COM
[SPOILER ALERT] The rest of the article explores the themes and premise of popular TV shows and films. While there will be no specific revelations (“He was the killer she was hunting all along, gasp!”) there will be discussions that take in broad plot developments (“What starts out as a comedic farce about office politics evolves into a sombre morality tale). Don’t read on if you can’t stomach these.
What you can learn: Life in the tech start-up ecosystem
Set in the titular homebase of all things tech, this comedy series revolves around a bunch of programmers who are brilliant at coding but not so great at getting a company up and running.
We go through everything about start-up life together with our merry band of misfits, from boardroom machinations between founders to how venture capitalists can be the maker and crusher of entrepreneurial dreams. We even get a helpful 101 on the Scrum workflow in an episode where the long-suffering head of business development tries to instill some discipline and structure to the freewheeling team.
There’s also the rivalry with a fictional giant tech firm that will stop at nothing to bring its opponent to heel, reminiscent of the ongoing debate about whether the largest Silicon Valley companies are engaging in monopolistic behaviour.
As the real life image of tech went from universal force for good to potential purveyor of evil in the wrong hands in recent years, the show also takes a turn for the dark in exploring the ethical dilemma of whether a few guys who wrote a bunch of code should have this much power and influence over vast swaths of humanity. Watch out for cameos from actual tech moguls and journalists for an added dose of realism.
The Great Hack
What you can learn: Data and social media’s impact on democracy
It has now been widely reported that social media can be exploited to influence elections, but the relentless news cycle can make it difficult to remember the details. The Great Hack takes an unsparing look at how political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data from tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent and then used that information in the course of their work for various political campaigns. The ensuing public outcry when the scandal came to light compelled Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress and magnified calls for greater regulation of social media.
Weaving together the voices of several key figures, including whistleblowers and investigative journalists, the documentary will imbue you with a healthy degree of scepticism everytime you are assured by boilerplate language on some website that “your data is safe with us”.
The Social Dilemma
*What you can learn: Users-as-product business model of social media
The Social Dilemma is very much a companion piece to The Great Hack, but the former examines the impact social media has on personal, everyday life. Featuring interviews with tech veterans and behavioural specialists, it drives home its key message: tech products are designed to be as addictive as possible and we are paying for them with our unceasing attention.
The film intersperses expert interviews (“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product”) with a fictional story of social media’s negative impact on a suburban family. In one sequence, the pre-teen daughter suffers body-image issues because of comments on an uploaded photo. In another, the teenage son is radicalised by going down a rabbit hole of online videos served up by a recommendation engine that surfaces similar content.
Together with The Great Hack, this docu-drama hybrid forms a one-two punch in waking us up to the manipulative effects of social media.
What you can learn: Ethical questions in tech
West World starts as a series about a theme park filled with life-like robots that, when playing their roles as inhabitants of America’s old west, are indistinguishable from humans. Real people visit West World to experience fantasy lives as cowboys, as well as engage in all sorts of consequence-free debauchery and twisted violence against the robots. Once dead, the robots are fixed and reset, good as new.
But what if the robots gain the ability to remember their pain and suffering even after reboots? And at what point does a robot’s ability to simulate emotion, feeling, and experience transition into true sentience?
The latest, third season takes place outside the park, where we see a society in which predictive analytics rules all aspects and determines a person’s lot in life. This mirrors the real-world debate of what are the pitfalls and where to draw the line in our embrace of AI in decision-making.
Of course, there’s also the visceral pleasure of watching Singapore depicted as a city of the future in season three, which was partly shot here. Our sunny island even gets name-dropped when two characters have a drink at an opulent watering hole (Atlas Bar in Parkview Square).
“Another simulation? Well this one’s a bit over the top,” says one, while taking in her surroundings.
“No Maeve, this is Singapore.”
What you can learn: Implications of tech in the near future
If robots that make minced meat out of the Turing Test seems too far off, then check out Black Mirror instead. This series that originated in Britain grounds itself by taking inspiration from tech that already exists and pushes the premise off-kilter.
How off? Well imagine a world where the only way to avoid watching commercials on ubiquitous screens is to pay a fee. Or one where your social media rating determines the priority you get in a queue. Yes, there is the occasional episode about killer machines, but the chills are mostly from the creeping sensation that “it could very well come true”.
If all these sound unbearably bleak, know that Black Mirror also contains one of the most uplifting tales of tech on TV in the episode San Junipero.
What you can learn: Cyber security and the world of hackers
You know this series isn’t playing around with keeping things real when the lead character drops terms like “Tor networking”, “onion routing protocol”, and “exit nodes” in the very first episode even before the title card makes its debut appearance.
Mr Robot – about a cybersecurity engineer leading a double life as a vigilante hacker – earned widespread praise for its authenticity from various cybersecurity firms. Watching this show can get you educated about cybersecurity terms like DDOS and how weak passwords are like using tissues to absorb a tidal wave.
If you find yourself furiously changing your passwords and being paranoid about every phone call with your bank, this show would have done its job.
So there you have it!
5 Movies and TV shows which are not only entertaining, but also sets your mind racing when it comes to questions of ethics and how technology are changing our lives. So the next time you are having trouble decidely what to watch on Movie Night perhaps try out some of the shows on this list!
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