Perks in Severance

I have written three blogs on the TV show Severance this summer. My newest post is up at the Online Library of Liberty.

I discuss how job perks are portrayed in the show. The bosses in the show are creepy and we come to find out that they are totally evil. Given the way everything feels in the show, you could come to the conclusion that perks are generally manipulative and false. Someone implied that in an op-ed published by the NYT.

My argument is that free adults can use “perks” to motivate themselves and each other to do the right thing.

We are all just trying to get that dopamine, in the short term. Should people only feel happy when they are doing drugs or playing video games? Should bosses not be allowed to create a fun moment at work?

Trivial gifts and prizes must be cheap, so that their cost does not start to outweigh the benefits of incentivizing things we should be doing anyway. Finding ways to make a responsible life exciting is in fact the key to maintaining our liberty. Most people do not want to be martyrs. They want life to be fun.

The following tweet shows the character Dylan and his performance prize.

Behavioral scientists have documented lots of quirks in human behavior. We aren’t solely motivated by our (real wage) salaries to produce effort. The good news is that we are capable of self-reflection. We can make these quirks work for us. Lots of successful people will promise themselves a small reward at the end of the week if they accomplish something hard.

Perks aren’t all bad at work, but, on the other hand, Severance could make you more alert to genuine manipulation that is out there.

Watching Severance prompts good questions. Who are you? (That’s the opening line of the show.) What are you doing with your life? Whose purposes are you serving?

I liked the show because it has great characters, funny moments, and it gets you thinking. If you watch the show, don’t take it too seriously. Ben Stiller is a co-director. The man (the genius) brought us Zoolander (2001).

One give-away that this ain’t the new 1984 is a plot hole concerning how the main character Mark decided to sever himself and join the evil corporation. According to the show, his wife died and he was so sad that he quit his job as a history professor after three weeks of feeling sad. I know a lot of academics. History professors have worked too hard and too long to quit their jobs after three weeks of feeling sad. Take everything with a grain of salt from these writers. Mark’s general lack of executive control is at odds with the backstory that he once obtained a job as a history professor.

Severance is described as science fiction but it clearly takes place in the United States of America. For one thing, a “senator” has a role. For another thing, the work schedule is pretty American. This is a funny video on how Europeans view the American work schedule:

I have no idea how far down the rabbit hole the writers will feel like they have to do in Season 2. Will there be a role for a POTUS?

The second blog was posted to EWED: my thoughts about relating Severance to Artificial Intelligence.

A question this raises is whether we can develop AGI that will be content to never self-actualize.

And, back in May, OLL ran my first blog about Severance and drudgery.

The first line in the show is, “Who are you?” Themes about identity and purpose are explored alongside the thrilling hijinks of the prisoner innies. Outie Mark has nothing except his personal life to think about, which in his case is tragic. Innie Mark has nothing but work. Neither man is happy or complete.