Inside Out

Highlights from this year's festival.

The New Statesman is proud to be a media partner for this year's Inside Out Festival, which starts next week. Here are some highlights from the programme.

Monday 22 October

University Challenged

Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King College London, The Strand, London WC2, 7pm

Marking the 50th anniversary of University Challenge, academics will respond to questions on life, the universe and everything in a cross between University Challenge and Question Time, with quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne.


To book, visit

Tuesday 23 October

Death and Space

The Deadhouse, Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start

"Death and the Contemporary" is a series of site-specific  discussion events organised by Dr Georgina Colby and Anthony Luvera .

Confirmed panellists for the first event  include Professor Robert Hampson and artist Tom Hunter, together with a rare opportunity to visit this venue.

£5 full price; £3 students, unemployed and over 65s. A glass of wine in included in the ticket price.

To book, visit

Tuesday October 23

On Some Threshold of the Air

St John’s Waterloo, London SE1, 8pm

Songs of Viktor Ullmann with English Touring Opera, the composer of The Emperor of Atlantis, composed in Terezin concentration camp.  Followed by a discussion about the work and its context with Professors Robert Eaglestone and Erik Levi.

£10; students £5; WDS £5.

To book, visit

Wed 24 October

Al-Qa’ida Resurgent?

City University, 10 Northampton Square, London EC1, 6pm

This forum will feature Abdel Bari Atwan talking about the subject of his new book After Bin Laden: Al-Qa’ida, The Next Generation, with Dr Shane Brighton providing his thoughts on the implications of a resurgence in Al Qaeda activism for Western policies to counter the phenomenon.

Free, but booking required.

To book, visit

Thursday October 25

Book as Artefact

Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London N1, 6.30pm

A discussion of the influence of digitalisation on the book  hosted by artist Sam Winston.

The panel of illustrious researchers, academics and practitioners from University of the Arts London, make  responses to a series of provocative questions, images and statements related to the changing face of the book in recent times.

Tickets £11.25 in advance; £13 on the door (cash only).

To book, visit

Friday 26 October 

London’s Lost Playing Spaces: Walking Tour

Fix Coffee, 126 Curtain Road, London EC2, 5pm

Visit the sites of some of Elizabethan and Jacobean London’s most important theatres in east London: the recently rediscovered Curtain, where Henry V was first performed; The Fortune, for which the original dimensions still survive; and The Red Bull, notorious for attracting rowdy and occasionally criminally violent audiences. Today, with its clubs and pubs, galleries and shops, east London remains a centre for entertainment and this walking tour will seek out its origins as a place of play.

Free with £3 returnable deposit.

To book, visit

Saturday 27 October

Conrad’s Secrets: London and its Others

The Johnson Bar, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, London EC4, 12pm for a 12.15pm start

Join Professor Robert Hampson for a drink and a talk based around his new book, “Conrad’s Secrets”.

Conrad’s Secrets explores various secrets relevant to Conrad’s fiction – naval secrets, trade secrets, sexual secrets, urban secrets and medical secrets. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Fleet Street landmark. Rebuilt back in 1667, it has strong connections to Conrad and his work.

Free event.

Explore the secrets of Joseph Conrad at the Inside Out Festival (photograph: Getty Images)
Screenshot of Black Mirror's Fifteen Million Merits.
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How likely are the plots of each Black Mirror episode to happen?

As the third series is on its way, how realistic is each instalment so far of the techno-dystopian drama? We rate the plausibility of every episode.

What if horses could vote? What if wars were fought using Snapchat? What if eggs were cyber?

Just some of the questions that presumably won’t be answered in the new series of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series Black Mirror, somewhere between The Twilight Zone with an app and The Thick Of It on acid.

A typical instalment takes an aspect of modern technology, politics, or life in general and pushes it a few steps into the future – but just how plausible has each episode been so far?

Series 1 (2011)

Episode 1: The National Anthem

Premise: A member of the Royal Family is kidnapped and will only be released unharmed if the Prime Minister agrees to have sexual intercourse with a pig on live television.

Instead of predicting the future, Black Mirror’s first episode unwittingly managed to foreshadow an allegation about the past: Charlie Brooker says at the time he was unaware of the story surrounding David Cameron and a pig-based activity that occurred at Oxford university. But there’s absolutely no evidence that the Cameron story is true, and real political kidnappings tend to have rather more prosaic goals. On the other hand, it’s hard to say that something akin to the events portrayed could NEVER happen.

Plausibility rating: 2 out of 5

Episode 2: Fifteen Million Merits

Premise: Sometime in the future, most of the population is forced to earn money by pedalling bikes to generate electricity, while constantly surrounded by unskippable adverts. The only hope of escape is winning an X-Factor-style game show.

In 2012, a Brazilian prison announced an innovative method of combating overcrowding. Prisoners were given the option to spend some of their time on electricity-producing bikes; for every 16 hours they spent on the bike, a day would be knocked off their sentence.

The first step to bicycle-dystopia? Probably not. The amount of electricity a human body can produce through pedalling (or any other way, for that matter) is pretty negligible, especially when you take account of the cost of the food you’d have to eat to have enough energy to pedal all day. Maybe the bike thing is a sort of metaphor. Who can say?

Plausibility rating: 0 out of 5

Episode 3: The Entire History of You

Premise: Everyone has a device implanted in their heads that records everything that happens to them and allows them to replay those recordings at will.

Google Glasses with a built-in camera didn’t work out, because no one wanted to walk around looking like a creepy berk. But the less visibly creepy version is coming; Samsung patented “smart” contact lenses with a built-in camera earlier this year.

And there are already social networks and even specialised apps that are packaging up slices of our online past and yelling them at us regardless of whether we even want them: Four years ago you took this video of a duck! Remember when you became Facebook friends with that guy from your old work who got fired for stealing paper? Look at this photo of the very last time you experienced true happiness!

Plausibility rating: 5 out of 5

Series 2 (2013)

Episode 1: Be Right Back

Premise: A new service is created that enables an artificial “resurrection” of the dead via their social media posts and email. You can even connect it to a robot, which you can then kiss.

Last year, Eugenia Kuyda, an AI entrepreneur, was grieving for her best friend and hit upon the idea of feeding his old text messages into one of her company’s neural network-based chat bots, so that she and others could, in a way, continue to talk to him. Reaction to this was, unsurprisingly, mixed – this very episode was cited by those who were disturbed by the tribute. Even the robot bit might not be that far off, if that bloke who made the creepy Scarlett Johansson android has anything to say about it.

Plausibility rating: 4 out of 5

Episode 2: White Bear

Premise: A combination of mind-wiping technology and an elaborately staged series of fake events are used to punish criminals by repeatedly giving them an experience that will make them feel like their own victims did.

There is some evidence that it could be possible to selectively erase memories using a combination of drugs and other therapies, but would this ever be used as part of a bizarre criminal punishment? Well, this kind of “fit the crime” penalty is not totally unheard of – judges in America have been to known to force slum landlords to live in their own rental properties, for example. But, as presented here, it seems a bit elaborate and expensive to work at any kind of scale.

Plausibility rating: 1 out of 5

Episode 3: The Waldo Moment

Premise: A cartoon bear stands as an MP.

This just couldn’t happen, without major and deeply unlikely changes to UK election law. Possibly the closest literal parallel in the UK was when Hartlepool FC’s mascot H'Angus the Monkey stood for, and was elected, mayor – although the bloke inside, Stuart Drummond, ran under his own name and immediately disassociated himself from the H’Angus brand to become a serious and fairly popular mayor.

There are no other parallels with grotesque politicians who may as well be cartoon characters getting close to high political office. None.

Plausibility rating: 0 out of 5

Christmas special (2015)

Episode: White Christmas

Premise 1: Everyone has a device implanted in their eyes that gives them constant internet access. One application of this is to secretly get live dating/pick-up artistry advice.

As with “The Entire History of You”, there’s nothing particularly unfeasible about the underlying technology here. There’s already an app called Relationup that offers live chat with “relationship advisers” who can help you get through a date; another called Jyst claims to have solved the problem by allowing users to get romantic advice from a community of anonymous users. Or you could, you know, just smile and ask them about themselves.

Plausibility rating: 4 out of 5

Premise 2: Human personalities can be copied into electronic devices. These copies then have their spirits crushed and are forced to become the ultimate personalised version of Siri, running your life to your exact tastes.

The Blue Brain Project research group last year announced they’d modelled a small bit of rat brain as a stepping stone to a full simulation of the human brain, so, we’re getting there.

But even if it is theoretically possible, using an entire human personality to make sure your toast is always the right shade of brown seems like overkill. What about the risk of leaving your life in the hands of a severely traumatised version of yourself? What if that bathwater at “just the right” temperature turns out to be scalding hot because the digital you didn’t crack in quite the right way?

Plausibility rating: 1 out of 5

Premise 3: There’s a real-life equivalent of a social media block: once blocked, you can’t see or hear the person who has blocked you. This can also be used as a criminal punishment and people classed as sex offenders are automatically blocked by everyone.

Again, the technology involved is not outrageous. But even if you have not worried about the direct effect of such a powerful form of social isolation on the mental health of criminals, letting them wander around freely in this state is likely to have fairly unfortunate consequences, sooner or later. It’s almost as if it’s just a powerful image to end a TV drama on, rather than a feasible policy suggestion.

Plausibility rating: 2 out of 5

Series 3 of Black Mirror is out on Friday 21 October on Netflix.