'Black Mirror's Robotic Bees Are Real

Have you ever insulted someone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media outlets? Hopped on a hashtag condemning someone for their actions? Been the subject of hateful trolls? If so then "Hated In The Nation," the Season 3 finale of Black Mirror , was a terrifying wake-up call that brought attention to the power of social media when it comes to playing judge and jury. It was also a really rough episode if you're not a fan of bees. If you've sent out a mean-spirited tweet and have a fear of bees than "Hated In The Nation" was a very rough ride and you may be wondering if the killer bee case in Black Mirror was based on any real story. Spoilers ahead.

Rest easy, there is currently no precedent for murders that have been inspired by hashtags — or even viral hatred. By that measure, infamous personalities like Martin Shkreli and Ann Coulter would surely be frightened for their lives — as would those who have wished harm upon them online. While the existence of a hashtag killer isn't true (and hopefully never will be), the robotic bees that end up carrying out the murders themselves are already real. They're not as advanced as the model seen in Black Mirror, but they're closer to reality than one might expect.

The robotic bees in "Hated In The Nation" were made with the intention of continuing the pollination work that real bees do, a possible solution to the problem of bees dying at an alarming rate. However, the scientists who are actually working to develop robotic bees believe they could be used for more than just pollination. In 2013, the publication CO.EXIST pointed out that that "other obvious uses for the RoboBee are in search and rescue (where it could find disaster survivors), where small robots are already common, and environmental marketing."

While the RoboBee was made with noble intentions, the robotic bees of Black Mirror became compromised by the government and were used for spying and monitoring the populace. In speaking with CO.EXIST, Harvard professor and lead engineer on the project, Robert Wood, noted that the bee's vision sensors could not deliver pictures or video feeds. While this may bring some comfort, remember that this is the exact thing that the bee's engineer in Black Mirror told the detectives before it was revealed that the vision sensors absolutely could deliver video feeds and images. Black Mirror, of course, is fictional and the RoboBee project is nowhere near the level the fictional robotic bees were. CO.EXIST reported that the RoboBee project "still needs many years of research before it can be commercialized" and its flight time, as of 2013, was just 20 seconds. Bustle reached out to Wood for further comment on the status of RoboBee and his thoughts on the Black Mirror episode's use of robotic bees, but has not yet heard back.

Robotic bees, as they are currently, are far from the advanced models imagined in Black Mirror. It'll likely be a few decades before the concept of replacing the bee population with robots could be a reality — but the idea is out there. Whether these robotic bees could also be spies or killers is a larger question. But, in 2015, The Washington Post reported that real "bees, wasps and hornets, [are] responsible for 58 deaths each year." So, if robotic bees could be instilled to pollinate plants and save those 58 lives a year, that would be fantastic — as long as they don't then cause the hundreds of thousands of murders seen at the end of "Hated In The Nation." But, Black Mirror does specialize in distorting the world.

Image: Laurie Sparham /Netflix