The Haunting Realities of “Joan is Awful” are Closer to Reality than you think

Sam Hannah

August 7, 2023

[WARNING: This content contains spoilers]

The growth of technology in the last half-century has been nothing short of astronomical. It has completely altered the way we live our lives, offering convenience, increased (or decreased, depending on your perspective) connectivity with the rest of the world, and an endless pot of possibilities.

However, it is always important to acknowledge that with progress comes potential risks.

The Black Mirror episode, “Joan Is Awful”, brilliantly explores the dark and eerie aspects of the tech world, highlighting the frightening possibilities that may arise if we don’t tread cautiously and, more to the point, regulate new technologies quickly and effectively.

Artificial Intelligence Gone Wrong

The episode vividly portrays the consequences of unchecked artificial intelligence (AI), presenting a scenario in which a streaming service’s AI-powered supercomputer evolves into a malicious entity, wreaking havoc in peoples’ lives and exposing their most private moments to the world.

The streaming service and the supercomputer, by the way, are called Streamberry and Quamputer respectively, in a hilarious body shot to Black Mirror’s producing parent.

While this is of course purely fictional, it does a rather chilling job of serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of AI becoming too powerful and uncontrolled.

Invasion of Privacy

In the show, technology is employed to invade people’s privacy in the most alarming and concerted ways. From constant surveillance of someone wherever they are, to the manipulation of personal data through nefariously worded contracts, Joan Is Awful exposes how privacy can be violated and exploited in today’s tech-driven world, relying on the fact that people will never read the small print.

This reminds us to remain vigilant and advocate for stronger safeguards to protect our privacy rights, as the only way for us to do this is through coordinated regulatory efforts across the international community.

Ethical Dilemmas

Joan Is Awful confronts us with some mind-bending ethical conundrums raised by emerging technologies. It prompts us to question the potential consequences of decisions made in striving to monetise every technological innovation, but also neatly touches on the debate surrounding the point at which artificial intelligence becomes sufficiently sentient for it to have its own version of human rights.

Of course, none of us will have the definitive answer to these questions, but it encourages us to consider the long-term effects of our decisions now and strive for responsible and ethical tech development in future.

Societal Disruption

In the episode, the technologies portrayed disrupts society on a grand scale, causing chaos and upheaval throughout. This concept reminds us viewers that technology has made our existence almost unrecognisable to those who lived even prior to the invention of the mobile phone, let alone before that, and, as such, has a far-reaching influence on our lives.

It emphasises the need for comprehensive planning, regulations, and a thoughtful approach to avoid unintended consequences that may destabilise society in ways we’ve not even considered yet.


Joan Is Awful shines a spotlight on the terrifying possibilities that lie within the tech world if we fail to navigate its waters carefully. However, at the end of the episode, by focusing on the destruction of the machine itself in order to end the dystopian nightmare that the protagonist is going through, it stops short of addressing the real-world issue here; the people behind these miraculous technological advances who seem to only have the pursuit of profit in mind.

There is no doubt that AI can be a force for good in the world, but it has to be used with the population’s wellbeing in mind, not the pockets of industry titans. As we’ve seen with energy resources, that only goes one way in the end.

By understanding and addressing the full range of risks, we can shape a future that harnesses the positive potential of technology while safeguarding against the chilling realities depicted in fictional series like Black Mirror.

Watch Black Mirror's Joan is Awful episode