Severance, a popular Emmy Award-winning show streaming on Apple TV+, is a rich cultural artifact. It concerns a team of office workers at a morally questionable company that performs brain surgery on employees to sever the consciousness of their work and personal lives. The four of us were so taken by the show that we wrote these reflections on its important ethical themes. Is it better to be severed and satisfied or integrated and dissatisfied? What are the risks posed by neurocapitalists who see our brains, bodies, and minds as the final financial frontier? In what ways does the trauma of moral distress and isolation experienced by the show’s characters and leading to their own quite dramatic “great resignation” echo the experiences of pandemic health care workers? What should we make of the dehumanization and alienation of corporate culture, where mindless drones cranking out widgets is rewarded and encouraged? We hope these essays-within-the-essay provide starting points for ethics discussions.
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