Lumon Industries and Drudgery

I have a blog up on the new TV show Severance at the Reading Room.

Some background for those who have not seen the show

Mark Scout (played by Adam Scott) voluntarily undergoes the fictional “severance procedure” so he can work for Lumon Industries. While at work, Mark is cut off from all memories of his personal life. 

One of my contentions is with the way work is questioned by brother in law Ricken without acknowledging what society gets from work . Granted, Ricken is portrayed as someone we should not take seriously.

It is taken for granted that when outie Mark gets home from work he has modern conveniences and access to food and (maybe unfortunately, in his case) alcohol. Those goods are supplied by businesses and specialized workers. Even though his hippie brother-in-law Ricken writes books questioning whether workers are free, Ricken enjoys electricity. Mark’s sister Devon gives birth to Ricken’s firstborn during Season 1. In life before modern corporations, the chances of mothers or babies dying was unacceptably high. While painting Lumon as utterly evil, Severance fails to acknowledge what good can come from work. … there is one insight from Adam Smith that is so basic it cannot even be controversial. Wealth comes from specialization and trade.

The writers gradually make the world in the show bigger. First, it’s just a few nicely-dressed people in a windowless office. By the end, a Senator is involved. We don’t know how deep this rabbit hole will go. I thought Season 1 was exciting, but I’m not sure if they will be able to make audiences happy when the writers try to tie up all the lose threads.

As for what the “data refiners” do for Lumon, I consider their classification task to be somewhat realistic. What they are doing is reminiscent of “check every image that contains a stop sign”. The ultimate purpose of what they are doing remains a mystery for now, but the show hints that Lumon is doing something terrible in secret.

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