Algorithmic Futures: How Futuristic Fiction Portrays Human Free Will in Neoliberal Capitalism

*Spoilers ahead for Westworld (2016-present) seasons 1–3*

Promotional Image for Westworld Season 3

In narratives depicting the future, usually science fiction texts, technology dictates the story. The sub-genre of the “15-minutes from now” science fiction proves popular television programming in recent years, from the cult classic Netflix anthology series Black Mirror (2011-present), to HBO’s Westworld (2016-present), and the French Netflix series Osmosis (2019). These three series share themes of Big Data and algorithmic manipulation in the context of the near-future. They ask the question: in societies so controlled, quantified, and algorithmically “predictable”, can humans have free-will, or are we always being guided and manipulated by our…


Spoilers for the film and book ahead!
Ready Player One (2011) is a science fiction novel by Ernest Cline, which has recently been adapted by Stephen Spielberg into the film Ready Player One (2018). Both the novel and the film begin with a similar premise: it is the year 2044/45 and the narrator describes the world as an ‘ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty and disease are widespread’ (‘About the book’, p. 1). …


*Trigger warning: mention of suicide in the following article*

The current state of the world is struggling to cope with a global pandemic with huge chunks of the world’s population dying or fighting to survive. Those on the medical front lines and those providing basic necessities such as working in supermarkets or pharmacies are our modern-day, hugely underappreciated and underpaid heroes. Many of us, on the other hand, are locked down at home without a job or attempting to work from home. There exists a strange juxtaposition as some members of society battle for their lives whilst others seemingly battle…


Season 1 Episode 8

Big Mouth (2017-present) is one of the more recent additions to the resurgence of adult animation. Created by Nick Kroll; Andrew Goldberg; Mark Levin; and Jennifer Flackett, the Netflix series features a group of young Americans facing puberty in the modern world. The series creates an embodiment of their hormones through the characters of the Hormone Monster and Monstress, who soon become characters with their own lives as the series progresses. At face value, the show is a comedy about the confusing period of time all humans face: adolescence. Yet, as the show progresses, it becomes more sophisticated, exploring issues…


Warning SPOILERS and EXPLICIT LANGUAGE ahead!

Episode 2 Manhunt Unabomber

I won’t be the first to point out that there has been a recent surge in true crime drama and documentaries recently added on Netflix. Within the recently added list, one can find Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019), The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (2019), Dirty John (2018) and the accompanying new documentary Dirty John: The Dirty Truth (2019), Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (2018), Abducted in Plain Sight (2017), and of course Making a Murderer (2015-present) to name a few highlights. Why true crime…


*SPOILERS*

Netflix’s recent release of the series Russian Doll (2019) has been met with much acclaim as a mind bending, (yet feminist and pro-mental health) tale of self-acceptance. The premise of the series is reminiscent of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day (1993), as the main character, Nadia, dies on the night of her 36th birthday party and wakes up back at the party. This sparks a Groundhog Day style loop where she continues to die and wake up whilst the people around her are none the wiser. She then meets Alan, another character stuck in his own loop where…


Warning: SPOILERS

The most recent addition in the Black Mirror universe, ‘Bandersnatch’ (2018), is one of the most innovative yet. The episode is an interactive experimental game-like episode where viewers control the episode by selecting options presented at the bottom of the screen. Set in 1984, the episode follows Stefan, a troubled young computer programmer who is creating an interactive game based on the interactive choose-your-own-adventure novel Bandersnatch by Jerome F. Davies (not a real book). This meta-fictional interactive game featuring a story about an interactive game based on an interactive novel takes meta-fiction to new extremes. …


The Netflix series BoJack Horseman (2014-present) is an adult animated series set in an alternative universe where humans live alongside humanoid animals. Other than this one distinct feature, the world presented to us is exactly the same as our own. The plot loosely revolves around BoJack Horseman, a Hollywoo (the D having been stolen by BoJack) actor whose fame was at its pinnacle during the 1990’s where he starred in the hugely successful sitcom series “Horsin’ Around”, and since has become a washed-up alcoholic and sex addict. The first series centres on his attempt at a comeback through an autobiography…


In the era of fake news, much has been written on and said about the blurring lines between truth and falsity, fact and fiction. The rise of fake news, fabricated news articles whose purpose is to deceive and fool, and the extent to which fake news has impacted our political reality, is worrying. Many question why? How did we get into a world of “post-truth”, a world where emotions and prejudice exceed facts. However, in this article, I plan to examine the mainstream news, fake news and political parodies as completing forms of conveyers of “truth”. I will use Noam…


The television series Westworld (2016-present) explores a futuristic world where human-like “hosts”, advanced robots, populate theme parks — most of the series is based in an old Wild West theme park, but we are aware of other parks — designed for humans to use and interact with as they please. Season one looked at the question of self-awareness and sentience, amongst other philosophical themes about what human nature is. We watched as the main character, Dolores Abernathy, the oldest host in the park, learned that she was a host through discovering the centre of the maze, a kind of metaphorical…

Megan K

Recent graduate in BA (hons) English Literature and Film. I love books, films and TV that make me think.

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