I find it quite interesting how after starting our blog, we increasingly notice and relate things in our everyday lives with personal finance. The other evening, Dr. SoS and I were craving some entertainment, so after putting Baby SoS to bed, we settled in to watch something on Netflix. I noticed a series called Black Mirror. This is a British science fiction series with standalone episodes similar to that of the old Twilight Zone series. The episodes examine modern society of an alternative present or near future set in a dark satirical way particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies.
The second episode, entitled 15 Million Merits, is well worth watching! The main character is Bingham “Bing” Madsen played by Daniel Kaluuya from Jordan Peele’s 2017 Get Out horror movie fame. The world is set in a satirical dystopian future. Everyone is housed in small rooms where the walls look like large iPad screens. Ever present is their personal worth in merits.
The people of this world cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their surroundings. Doing so generates currency in merits. While exercising people can watch their avatars, called dopples, cycle through an imaginary countryside or they can pay merits to watch various forms of entertainment.
Everything from toothpaste, to food, to dopple outfits, dopple hairstyles, dopple accessories cost merits. While cycling to generate merits or in their rooms alone they are constantly interrupted by advertisements for other forms of entertainment or ways to spend more merits. If you do not wish to watch the advertisements, you must spend merits to skip them.
I do not want to spoil the true purpose of the show, so that is all the detail I am going to provide. After watching, I began drawing so many true-to-life parallels that at first it was quite disheartening.
Instead of cycling, many of us travel to and from the same desk day after day. Unless we do something about it, this can go on for years. Getting up, getting ready for work, traveling to work, sitting at a desk, doing a similar task, sometimes watching the clock, traveling home, many times doing similar things each evening only to do the same thing tomorrow.
Present day is not far from the dystopian story portrayed. If you enjoy watching YouTube, but do not wish to watch the advertisements, you can now pay for YouTube Red to avoid advertisements. We are not monetarily penalized for skipping the advertisements, but how long is it before someone figures out how to make that a reality? We work at our careers to earn money to pay for everything. In the show, people did not purchase “stuff”, but visual experiences that pseudo-enhanced their lives. In real life, many people buy material things that really do not make them any happier.
The truth is, that this does not have to be our life. Sometimes we have to realize where we are, figure out where we are going, and make appropriate changes to make that happen. What am I talking about? I am talking about FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). Make changes TODAY so you can stop riding that cycle day after day. Figure out your finances. Calculate your net worth and how much you need to do what you want to do instead of what you have to do. Stop buying things you do not need. Save more money today to bring your desired future closer to your present day. Learn about investing and encourage your money to make even more money for you. Go outside and get some exercise or even swim! Take care of your body and eat better. Drink more water. The list goes on and on, but you need to start today. All of these things will help you achieve your goals, but waiting until tomorrow will not. Don’t be another dopple in the crowd.
When I finished watching the show, it brought to light how in some ways my life was similar to the main character’s life. After some introspection, though, I decided we can make the choice to continually improve our lives for the better. I thought about you and how sharing this experience has the potential to help you, as well. Light your own FIRE and break through the darkness of the Black Mirror.
See you on the other side, in the sunshine!
Fifteen Million Merits is Episode 2 of Season 1 in the series Black Mirror
The show first aired on BBC Channel 4 on December 11, 2011
The episode was the first written for the series even though it was the second that aired
The sets all featured working screens as they determined it would not be possible to use visual effects