‘Black Mirror’ fans think the show’s dystopian future is coming true after U.S. deploys ‘Terminator dogs’

Image via Netflix

Since it first aired on Netflix in Dec. 2017, Black Mirror’s “Metalhead” episode has been a cultural touchstone every time quadrupedal robots go viral. But never before has our stark reality skirted so close to cautionary sci-fi tales as news from the border this week.

On Tuesday, the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it has been running trials of robotic patrol dogs near the southern border with Customs and Border Protection. A blog post from the federal executive department’s Science and Technology Directorate detailed that the trials were successful and shared pictures of the robots, designed by Ghost Robotics, in the field. The blog post calls the robot dogs “force multipliers” and “a new best friend for CBP personnel in the field.”

As The Verge reports, the lesser-known competitor to Boston Dynamics has prototyped models of their canine-like robots equipped with guns, though these DHS did not employ these. Rather, the robots in question can operate autonomously or manually. While most of the tests involved using the dogs as sentries for surveillance and patrol, the DHS tested the machines under manual operation in “a scenario that simulated being met by potentially hostile individuals.”

Everyone from politicians and civil rights groups to Black Mirror fans is reasonably alarmed by the initiative to further equip a law enforcement agency that operates outside of domestic and international law, as documented by Human Rights Watch

The news prompted the cautionary message of sci-fi, and “Metalhead” in particular. The fifth episode of Black Mirror’s fourth season, “Metalhead,” was directed by David Slade and written by series creator Charlie Brooker. Inspired by Boston Dynamics’ quadrupedal robots, a popular sight on social media thanks to a marketing campaign that belies the potentially horrific uses of such machines by police, the episode portrays a robot dog hunting humans through a post-apocalypse setting over a 40-minute chase sequence oft-compared to The Terminator.  

“This is literally an episode of Black Mirror,” read umpteen tweets following the news.

More Tweets recollected the videos of dancing robot dogs over the past decade: “Remember all the videos trying to make these things look “fun” and “cool?”.

Black Mirror ended up stuck in an IP quagmire after its fifth season, as documented by Variety. But Brooker seems to have taken the production conundrum as a reprieve, saying in a 2020 interview that the world is too bleak for more Black Mirror at the moment — a sentiment that seems truer every day since.