2072: Evaluating Tech Things

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Evaluating Tech Things
Also known as the Black Mirror-Mythbusters scale.
Title text: Also known as the Black Mirror-Mythbusters scale.


The rapid pace of technological advancement frequent raises the possibility of doing things that were either impossible, or at least impractical, for all of human history. In many cases, these new possibilities are exciting and fun, but at least some of them present major concerns about how they'll impact society. Things like atomic fission, the Internet, CRISPR technology, are amazing things we have learned how to do, but they also have the potential, in some cases already realized, of massively affecting human life (e.g. nuclear annihilation, instant wide-scale communication, elective genetic engineering), both for the better and for the worse.

Here Cueball, upon hearing of a cool idea he hadn't thought of before, mentally measures it on a scale to decide if he can be excited about it, or should be worried about how it might affect humanity. This process is represented by an analog meter with one extreme labeled "This raises big questions about technology and society", and the other simply labeled "Haha Cool!". After weighing it out, he decides it's just plain cool and it will not adversely affect humanity at all. In the comic, it appears this mental decision took awhile, judging by the multiple panels showing him thinking, ambivalently rubbing his chin as the dial oscillates left and right, before he gives his response.

The title text refers to this mental weighing also being known as the Black MirrorMythbusters scale. Black Mirror is a British anthology series, mostly falling into the genre of near-future science fiction. Each episode deals with the impacts of current and/or potential technology on society, usually focused on the negative and even destructive effects that technological change can have.

Mythbusters was a long-running science education/entertainment program in which the hosts explore myths, urban legends, and other various claims and concepts by designing and building experiments to test them. The show was famous for advancing the notion of experimentation to a broad audience, as well as for the elaborate and often exciting experiments they conducted (including a large number of dramatic explosions).

Randall appears to use Black Mirror as an emblem of the frightening and dangerous aspects of science and technology, and Mythbusters as benchmark for having fun with science by using it to do cool things.

Worrying about the effect that technology has on our lives is a theme that has been explored before, in 1215: Insight.


[Megan and Cueball talking.]
Megan: Sooner or later, someone is going to fly a drone into a tornado and post the footage to YouTube.
[Zoom in on Cueball imagining a semicircular dial with a moving pointer currently fixed vertically in the mid value. The left-most value indicating his opinion to be "This raises big questions about technology and society" and the right-most being "Haha, cool!"]
[Panel with just Cueball and the imaginary dial above his head, the pointer having shifted a small amout to the right.]
[Same panel with Cueball, his right hand pensively on his chin, the pointer having shifted an equally small amount to the left of the mid value.]
[Panel with Cueball, Megan and the imaginary dial above, the pointer now all the way to the right.]
Cueball: Haha, cool!

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Do we need a reason to do things other than the fact it is freaking awesome? Linker (talk) 17:42, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Look on the other end of the scale -- some of the freaking awesome things we do have devastating long term effects for all of humanity. But not this one. {...mentally weighing...} Probably. -boB (talk) 18:29, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Ok, I'll setup the google alert: https://www.google.com/alerts/feeds/03781144062642195102/9931051611942254792 18:17, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

The Black Mirror-Mythbusters scale. Or, to give it it's proper name, the Brooker-Hyneman Scale. GranadalandDreamer (talk) 23:59, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

lol, find it a little funny that it sounds almost like a real name. -- Linker (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm amazed that no one has flown a drone into a tornado yet. Or is it just that they've yet to recover any footage from the mangled remains of the poor smashed drones? --Quantum7 (talk) 09:07, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

Explanation seems pretty complete. Anything missing really? The comic is not very deep to need a longer explanation than it currently is. -- 11:16, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

Is Cueball vacillating over which opinion he has, or does he have both and is wondering which to express? 13:03, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

That's a good question. Aside from risk-taking inherent to any storm-chasing, the activity of flying a drone into a storm doesn't have any obvious ethical baggage. Maybe Randall has thought of something that I haven't? Either way, it's a less-than-ideal testcase to demonstrate the evaluation scale humorously or otherwise. jameslucas (" " / +) 13:56, 15 November 2018 (UTC)
If the dials above his head represent his thoughts, as suggested by the 2nd panel, then it is his actual opinion that he expresses in the end. 14:22, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

Drones into a tornado is a thing. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1517270439/the-sirens-project-uav-tornado-research (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

No, not yet, the project is planned, but they need funding, and also make their actual idea work. But cool though. --Kynde (talk) 13:03, 16 November 2018 (UTC)

I don't even see this as a question. Of course it's massively cool. But the engineer in me is concerned about any drone being strong enough to not be completely destroyed before it gets close enough to return good data/video. Shamino (talk) 20:21, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

I actually went through exactly this quandary when I walked through my living room a few nights ago and found my wife watching live open-heart surgery on the TV (UK - I don't know if this is a thing anywhere else). My dial is still quivering right in the middle as I'm fascinated, but wondering about the impact on "entertainment" and society's expectations thereof. Daemonik (talk) 11:44, 16 November 2018 (UTC)

I think Randall just tries to use his influence to get the job done. Just like he has experiences before with 249: Chess Photo and 225: Open Source (see Life Imitates xkcd). See also the explanation for 254: Comic Fragment, which no one has enacted yet... This insight could be part of the explanation above, that Randall hopes alot of engineers will be inspired to try and maybe succeed in getting pictures and data from the inside of a tornado using drones. --Kynde (talk) 13:03, 16 November 2018 (UTC)

What about Twister??? Movie: Twister (1996 film) 15:23, 19 November 2018 (UTC)