I finished watching Apple’s Severance series, which was a very interesting experience. The series opens so many questions on ethics, wellbeing, work-life balance, and humanity, and I am probably forgetting something.
Severance tackles a dystopian world in which a large corporation is conducting surgeries on people’s brains in a way that makes people only remember their private or professional lives, thus creating a dual persona. The one living outside of the severed floor is ‘outie’ and the one on the severed floor is ‘innie’. This dual persona does not know what the other part is doing, and we see people coming and going from work and there is a click in their eyes when their persona switches. However, what series leaves open (maybe for the second season, which is coming up this year) is what it is that the corporation actually does? The severed floor is very empty, with just a few people in each department doing the work they do not understand. In the case of the data processing work group the series follows, they are looking at numbers that stand out and put them in folders, but what these numbers represent is not disclosed. We do meet another department, but again it is not exactly clear what these do either.
What we do learn is that people are not happy in their office jobs and would like to know more about their external persona. Therefore, the first season tackles human curiosity because ‘innies’ want to know who are ‘outties’ and interestingly, the brain works in a way that some are drawing pictures of the ‘innie’ world without knowing why they do that or they feel drawn to people without knowing why. We also learn that people know each other as both ‘innies’ and ‘outties’ but they don’t always connect this. What is particularly disturbing is that this disconnect between two personas enables spying on people without having to hide because they do not recognize their bosses from work. Towards the end of the season, there are also some shocking revelations about who some ‘innies’ truly are, which makes the series even more interesting.
And, of course, there is resistance to the notion of tampering with people’s brains and emotions, which only briefly gets introduced and is left to develop in series 2. I had a feeling this bit might go in the direction of 3% series on Netflix, which would not be unwelcome as the resistance part is well developed in that series (I wrote a blog on the series 2).
I was particularly puzzled by the question of work-life balance. Would we indeed be more free from always overthinking our work and mentally working if we had our brain disconnected once we left the building? Would we be able to relax more? A lot of food for thought here and I look forward to season two.
Thank you for reading!