A Product Manager Watches Black Mirror: S4 E2, Arkangel

This post contains spoilers for Black Mirror S4 E2 'Arkangel.' LOTS of spoilers. If you don't want spoilers, go away. Now!

Black Mirror is a great watch for product managers, because you see all types of future - and current - technology - and how technology can go terribly wrong when there's no product manager thinking through the edge cases. 

Moral of the Story: 

Did someone hear a helicopter? Spying on your kid to make sure they're safe might actually make them more unsafe. You might also end up dead from an iPad-head-bashing.

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Episode Recap:

Helicopter mom loses her daughter, Sarah, at the playground for about five minutes. She doesn't really lose Sarah; the daughter just chases an adorable cat and deviates from the playground for about 1/10 of a mile.

No-chill Mom storms off, directly to Arkangel - a company that will microchip your kid. The chip hooks up to an app that provides all sorts of data on your child: your child's iron levels, cortisone levels, and of course, geo location. The app also allows you to see through your child's eyes. Which is super creepy.

Fast forward ten years: Sarah is a teenager. Sarah wants to have sex and do drugs. Mom gets curious one day and opens up the old app. Whoa! She sees Sarah losing her virginity in a van, and snorting a few lines.

Long story short, after a little morning-after-pill-smoothie (delicious!), Sarah realizes her mom is spying on her, loses her mind, beats her mom with the iPad used to spy on her, and hitches the next ride out of town with a trucker.

Black Mirror is not one for happy endings.

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5 Product Observations From This Episode:

  1. Arkangel is like a combo of Find my iPhone (geo tracking), an Apple Watch (health monitoring), Family Time (parental controls) and a GoPro for your kid (general surveillance.) I might be able to duct-tape this product together in my garage!
  2. Parents-spying-on-their-kids apps are already pretty popular. Truth Spy lets parents see browser history and phone logs. Find My Child tracks your kid's exact location, even if the phone is switched off. Family Time gives parents access to kids' contact lists. The idea of a parent-spys-on-kid product isn't new.
  3. Parental Controls are a common product feature... just not to the extent shown in this episode. I used to work on parental control features for TV apps. There are lots of parents that don't want their kids seeing violence and sex. But a scary barking dog? I hear that helicopter...
  4. It's doubtful that a 10-year-old app would still work on that 10-year-old iPad. I'm surprised the thing could even connect to the internet or the chip. 
  5. An irreversible built-in chip would unlikely be a successful product. Users are typically commitment averse. I don't think a "We're going to put this chip in your kid, but it can never come out!" product pitch would go over well.

You can listen to more thoughts about this episode on the podcast.

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