Productivity

Abraham Woodliff
16 min readOct 2, 2023

Year: 2081

Location: New York, NY

The auditorium was dark. There were roughly 3,000 people in attendance. If you weren’t invited, you didn’t matter. The most influential business elites from all four corners of the globe were packed into this room. All of them were waiting to hear a keynote address from Dr. Himlaryan. Dr. Himlaryan was unique even by Silicon Valley standards. He was an expert in both neurology and economics. His insights were essential in expanding the business model and ethics of Silicon Valley into every facet of the global economy. Before Dr. Himlaryan, only developed nations had their commercial prowess tracked. Himlaryan introduced algorithms into even the most basic forms of commerce. It didn’t matter if you bought something from an online merchant or purchased a chicken from a local farmer in an African village, Dr. Himlaryan found a way to not only track the data, but utilize it to best serve the needs of digital commerce. However, this was only the first phase of his ambitions. His true obsession was eugenics. He believed that the core idea of eugenics would bear fruit as long as the process of determining human deficiency remained unburdened by America’s obsession with skin pigmentation. His focus was on what characteristics existed within the human brain, and how understanding these neurological strengths and weaknesses could increase productivity for the international business community. For Dr. Himlaryan, the more we could conceivably produce, the more we could conceivably become. Profit and evolutionary potential were one in the same to him. And that’s why this auditorium, filled with the powerful, was so significant. The world was about to change and you weren’t invited…

A stage light turned on over an elevated podium with a sign on it that read “Commercial Consciousness For A New Global Century” A hologram of a man in an expensive looking suit with dark slicked back hair was generated just to the left of the podium.

“Dr. Himlaryan would like to thank all of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend this event. The keynote presentation will be approximately one hour in length. As a precaution to ensure the information discussed within this presentation remains confidential, all digital devices — including enhancements such as physical, cognitive or ocular augmentation must be placed into sleep status. An EMPS (ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE SCRAMBLER) device will be turned on in the auditorium to disrupt any potential offline recording devices during the duration of the keynote presentation. We are aware that it is highly unusual to require a physical presence in this era of singularity, but this is the only way to ensure that the ideas discussed here are not exposed to the world without the proper context. We appreciate your understanding and patience. The presentation will begin shortly.” The hologram turned around as if it was about to walk off stage and disappeared.

The audience applauded. It was strange. They were basically given a list of things they couldn’t do under the guise that they were about to be given information that would greatly expand the things they could do… in the future, just as long as they followed the list of things they couldn’t do in the present. Humanity — even among those described as leaders, they’re likely to follow the lead if their “leadership” is acknowledged. People don’t change at the top, they just relish in intellectual ambiguity, tradition and politeness.

The crowd chattered amongst themselves. Their conversations all revolved around money, status and seating arrangement. A few commented at the novelty of holding a conference in person. But mostly they were quiet. The anticipation was palpable. These were people who had gotten anything they ever wanted immediately. Actually, that immediacy was expedited. These people had everything they ever could want before they even had the time to think over their desires. So, for many of the people in the audience, this was a first in more ways than one. With the requirement to turn off their tech modifications and devices, coupled with having to wait, many of these people were becoming human for the first time, if only for a few minutes.

A calming female voice came from the speakers at the foot of the stage. “Please welcome Dr. Alexander Himlaryan.” Several people in the audience rose to their feet and began applauding, a few stayed seated, but most clapped with an enthusiasm that seemed so intense it appeared inauthentic. Dr. Himlaryan walked to the podium slowly with the confident swagger of a man who understood his ideas were going to influence the people who influenced everything. He wore dark blue denim jeans, a black T-shirt with white calligraphy that said “ longevity” in Japanese that was made of entirely recycled fabric; a blazer with a pin that had an image of Nikola Tesla on the left lapel and a black pair of restored leather dress shoes that appeared to have been polished moments before the presentation by the way the stage lights sharply reflected off of them.

Once he made it to the podium, he warmly smiled at the audience as the applause grew louder and the clapping accelerated in speed. He nodded his head at them in agreement of their adoration of his apparent genius.

He leaned his head toward the microphone and the gold flecks floating in his sea-blue eyes sparkled in the direct light that poured in from above.

“I want all of you to look at who is sitting next to you and understand that you have everything in common with that person,” he paused for effect, “advanced neurological evolution made possible by a perfect storm of genetic opportunity that placed each and every one of you in position to achieve supremacy in an economic environment built to promote efficiency and growth. This economic system is global in scope and endless in its complexities as it navigates the nuances of law, borders, languages and cultures. Not to mention the rapidly expanding digital spaces that augment our bodies, enhance our lives, but ultimately leaves the majority of our species feeling lost as the march of progression moves faster than they can comprehend, yet all of you did comprehend and remained in power despite the technological change that takes place daily. The world would be better off with more people like you — like us. And that is precisely why we’re here.”A chart appeared behind Dr. Himlaryan that showed previous levels of global economic productivity.

“As you can see from this chart, productivity and profits have soared. We have increased productivity and profits year-over-year for the last 5 years…” The audience began applauding. “Stop,” Dr. Himlaryan commanded the crowd with disdain in his voice. “This is not good enough.” Another chart showing full economic potential for 2080 appeared behind him.
“We only reached 76% of our projected global economic potential for that year. Nearly 1/4th of what we could’ve achieved in 2080 was wasted. That is nothing to celebrate. It’s a slap in the face that none of you should accept.”

A chart depicting the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex appeared behind Dr. Himlaryan. “We can consult with every single economist in the world. We can analyze algorithm after algorithm, but the answer to reaching our productivity potential — our true potential is based in understanding the human brain and by extension, the human worker.”

Bright lights above the stage pointed at the crowd illuminated the auditorium.

“Look at yourselves. Among you, what do you see? I see familiarity. Do you see differences? We have every hue of skin color, eye color, gender and national origin in this audience. Yet, despite the odds, you have all superseded expectation. Proving that we have limited our ability to create the ideal human, and by proxy a better worker, by focusing on superficialities that have halted progress. We have to reassess and find the root cause of human degeneracy. We have to identify neurological weakness in the global population and humanely eliminate it among all walks of modern life so that those most cognitively fit to carry the torch of the human spirit into the future can do so uninhibited by the unnecessary burden of those unworthy of such a task.”

Dr. Himlaryan pointed to the wall behind him and a live projection of the audience appeared.

“You may appear different on a surface level, but intellectually, this room is among the most homogeneous on the planet. Surface level diversity is an illusion created by adaptations to UV rays and a myriad of other environmental conditions that existed long before we could even be conscious of such differences or their origins. In order to make a better world, we need to eliminate diversity — neurological diversity to be more specific. We need to eliminate the weak, the poor and the stupid. Unproductives aren’t made unproductive by economic neglect, but by intellectual incapacity. Some of you in this very room have come from, out of sheer statistical anomaly, from the weak. The feeble-minded among us can, on occasion, produce a leader, but it’s not enough to justify their continued unguided existence in the large numbers they so thoughtlessly reproduce.”

A high quality photo of the earth appeared on the screen behind Dr. Himlaryan.

“So, what do we do? Much of the world has been made uninhabitable by overpopulation and the resulting rapid changes in climate. Much of Africa and Central Asia as well as large swaths of North America are too hot to live in. The western United States is constantly burning. The Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area where I reside is more likely to experience blood-orange skies than it is to be enveloped by the fog that I grew so fond of as an undergraduate at Stanford. The Southern US and Midwest are economic dead zones with unpredictable weather patterns and the Eastern US, the place where we have decided to gather today, once a powerhouse of global capital, is on the verge of irrelevance as the digital economy has made the entire concept of location appear antiquated.”

Dr Himlaryan placed both hands on the podium and stared into the crowd. “What do we do?” Could we perpetuate another genocide? I know some of you are reaching that conclusion, but the old methods of genetic reconfiguration are the same as the large buildings that needlessly fill this filthy city: antiquated.”

An image of a woman wearing a hospital gown lying flatly in an oval-shaped pod with a smile on her face appeared on the screen. Her eyes were closed. Various tubes, some plastic to sustain hydration and nutrients, others metal to monitor any potential physical or digital augmentations. The word “HUMANE” sat awkwardly in large red letters under the image. For some reason, even without proper context, this image made some of the elites in the audience applaud. The image zoomed out, revealing rows of similar pods with different people in them, as the image continued, more pods appeared until each pod and the person assigned to them were reduced to unrecognizable dots on the screen.

“Existence should be based on individual merits divorced from surface-level prejudice. In the past, population reduction has been traumatic, based on trivialities, and prone to intense scrutiny from the humanitarian-minded among us. My humane method of genetic molding is based on neuroscience and productivity analysis using the same proprietary SaaS (Software as a Service) that made me a leader in global commerce,” Himlaryan paused for effect. Despite his outward confidence, he wasn’t entirely certain of the response he would receive to such a radical idea. How does one convince the most powerful people in the world to participate in a genocide while extolling its virtuosity as a main characteristic. The premise to his argument was that he wasn’t killing anyone, he was decommissioning them until they died peacefully of natural causes. Even for Himlaryan it was a taxing argument to make, but to his surprise, he wasn’t met with resistance, but intrigue. He stood at the podium quietly anticipating an objection that never came. He took an anxious breath and continued. “We all monitor our workers and when we observe consistent dips in productivity, at first we speak to them and provide a sort of corrective counseling, usually delivered by a manager or someone else we placed as a sort of overseer, but this is ultimately a waste of time. Anyone who consistently wastes finite resources and capital is clearly suffering from a diagnosable deficiency and would likely just waste more resources if we attempt to cure them of their lackluster traits to varying degrees of efficacy. And that is precisely what I aim to fix.”

Himlaryan walked away from the podium and began to pace around the stage. Another image appeared, showing what could be achieved in his ever-improving vision for utopia. It showed children of all races and cultures working jobs at as close to 100% efficiency as possible, all with smiles on their faces. It transitioned to a close-up image of an unproductive worker aging while comatose in a pod… with an ever-present smile. It showed the earth healing from the damage caused by population growth, healing from the ecological scars of war. Trees were becoming more abundant, the west burned less, San Francisco’s fog returned, the heat waves and blizzards in New York grew less intense. These images were accompanied by restored audio recordings of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Under Himlaryan’s vision, the efficiency of the economy would reach near 100% while capitalism’s impact on the world greatly lessened due to a rapidly reduced population. These perfect workers, bred to be the best, through their own version of natural selection, by way of humane genocide, would serve the interests of an elite that sat mesmerized in a New York Auditorium. It wasn’t enough for them to control the world, they had to feel good about themselves, too. A bunch of Mother Theresas fooling themselves as they arbitrarily“decommissioned” those they deem didn’t work hard enough to justify their existence, which was ultimately to serve them.

Dr. Himlaryan walked back to the podium. “And this is how it will work,” after taking a deep breath, he continued, “We will analyze productivity in each individual worker, if we notice a decrease in productivity, we will pull them for neurological analysis. We will then find out if they are positive for genetic components that make them more susceptible to things like drug addiction, or anything that can be defined as neurodivergent, if these traits are found, we will do similar analysis on their family, we will go down the line, each worker will be decommissioned. However, to be decommissioned is not a punishment, but in many ways, a gift. These brain scans will find what stimuli gives them the most pleasure, and in their comatose state, they will be given just that until their body dies. In the event of a natural medical emergency, we would proceed with a hands-off approach. Just let it happen. Let them die. The pods will assure they will not be in any pain and increase levels of dopamine and serotonin to offset any potential pain that may disrupt their comatose state. Upon death, we will give their body back to the earth. To further fertilize it. The planet feeds us, we must reciprocate. No casket, place them in the dirt and let our planet consume, as we have for centuries… Any questions?”

And the people in the auditorium did have questions. Questions regarding implementation.

There were no objections…

Year: 2100

Location: San Francisco, CA

“Good afternoon Mrs. Arnstein. Do you know why you’re here?” Asked the doctor.

“I… don’t. I was told I had to take a screening and that it was mandatory to keep my job. That’s all my boss said.”

“I see. Well, I assure you that there is nothing to worry about. This is just an aptitude test. I’m going to ask you a series of questions and then we’re going to do a few painless scans — mostly neuroscans, but those will occur later.”

“What’s your name?” Deborah Arnstein asked.

The doctor paused. He tilted his head and his eyes were momentarily fixated on the sterile white floor.

“As per corporate procedure, we are not permitted to provide our given names due to the anonymity clause in our contract, but I can provide you with my employment code. I am Dr. 0092510–415–707.”

“But you get to know my name?”

“As per corporate procedure, we have to. We are trained to create a level of comfort and familiarity with our patients while administering these tests. If I didn’t address you by your birth name, I would be in direct violation of the physicians’ conduct clause in my contract.”

“Are you human?” Deborah paused, “No one’s fully human these days, but are you organic spawn or are you code?”

“As per corporate procedure, I regret to inform you that that type of question is in direct violation of the Martin Luther King clause which is in every employee contract. If you retain your employment at the end of this test, you will be hearing from the CR (Conscious Resources) department,” the doctor replied sternly.

“Did you know that Martin Luther King was murdered while leading a march for the rights of workers? I think it was called the Poor Peoples’ or Poor Persons’ Campaign, something like that… Don’t you think it’s weird that a man who died fighting against corporate interests would have a clause named after him in a corporate contract limiting what workers can say?”

“I don’t know who Martin Luther King is. I just know there’s a clause named that.”

Deborah stared at her hands and accepted that this would likely be her last day of real life. She was going to be decommissioned. There were rumors about what happens to unproductives workers or anyone who spoke out, even those meeting their productivity quotas would be labeled unproductive and removed if they questioned the contracts. No one knew where they went, but there were rumors of large metal containers where people would sleep forever and sometimes their families would go with them. Workers said corporations would “cancel” you. That was the colloquial term for it. People would just disappear. Any aspect of life that didn’t match the advertisements would be scrutinized and eventually removed. And the ads were everywhere. The neurolinks infiltrated our dreams with ads. Product placement would even appear in nightmares. The algorithm in the neurolink wasn’t advanced enough yet to distinguish between good and bad dreams. To the neurolink, dreams were dreams. Deborah rarely remembered her dreams, but one particular nightmare had made her petition to get her neurolink removed. She was being raped. The man was getting ready to enter and she begged him to wear a condom. As the rape occurred a disembodied voice said “You never know when life is going to happen to you, even when you’re not protected, the sex can be. Thin Skin Condoms — keeping the sensitivity intact while making sure you don’t contract! Available at Quickshop.globe and all participating retailers!” The petition for the neurolink’s removal was denied.

The doctor’s eyes glowed an electric blue indicating that his data lense had been turned on. Her chart and the questions he was about to ask were visible only to him.

“We’re going to begin the test. Please answer the questions honestly as the neurolink will pick up on cortisol spikes and other hormonal changes consistent with lying. Please answer every question, thoroughly, thoughtfully and concisely.” Deborah gave a small nod.

“It’s a sunny day. You and your family are going to the beach. You receive notification that a storm is quickly approaching, yet you don’t see any evidence of an impending storm. Do you: A. Continue your trip to the beach. B. Heed the weather warning and go home. Or C. Contact an official to inquire about the weather.”

“I’d continue the trip, and if it rained, I’d just head home.”

“Are you saying that you don’t trust our IAC? (INFORMATION ALERT CORPORATION)”

“I’m saying if I was going to go to the beach and the skies were blue, if it started to rain, I could always drive home.”

“Would you agree that driving in inclimate weather is less efficient than driving in sunny weather?”

“What do you mean?”

“It is common for storms formed in the Pacific to be windy. The higher the wind speeds, the more power the battery has to expend to power the car during the drive. Would you agree that it would be better to just listen to the information provided by the IAC as it would expend less energy, thus increasing the longevity of the car’s lifecycle?”

“I guess?”

“It is now time for the neuroscan,” the doctor said abruptly.

“Wait, that’s it?”

“The number of questions is dependent upon the responses given.”

“Did I say something wrong?”

“We must now advance to the neuroscan portion of the test,” the doctor continued, “you may feel a burning or vibrating sensation from your forehead down to your shoulders as we initiate your neurolink’s neuroscan function. This is normal. If the pain becomes too much to handle, we can issue a temporary numbing agent and begin the test again.”

“Do I have any choice?”

“The test will begin in exactly 60 seconds.”

Deborah silently stared at the doctor. His face was pale. He had the face of a 20 year old, but the hands of a much older man. He likely was a YOUTHNOW recipient. YOUTHNOW was a product marketed to the upper classes to make organics appear younger if they decided against going full cybernetic. Cybernetics came with its downsides, primarily in the area of sexual pleasure. While you could preserve your cognitive function by fully digitizing your consciousness, sex could be imitated, but never experienced the way you could while still in your organic body. For that reason many didn’t go fully cybernetic and only embraced augmentations instead of a full CT (COGNITIVE TRANSFER) until they sat at death’s doorstep. The YOUTHNOW organic cellular therapy was the best way to appear young, but there were certain telltale signs that someone was a YOUTHNOW recipient: their hands. For whatever reason the hands were unaffected by YOUTHNOW therapy. The rest of the body would reverse in age, but hands retained the appearance of the recipient’s natural age.

Deborah could tell the neuroscan had begun. She felt a vibration in the middle of her forehead, the sensation wasn’t painful, it was more irritating than anything. The speed of the vibrations increased and she began to see spots. Tiny purple, green and pink spots appeared at random in her field of vision. A subtle burning sensation radiated from the bottom of her shoulders, up her neck and she began to sweat.

“How much longer?”

“The neuroscan takes approximately twenty two minutes and thirty six seconds to complete.”

“How long has it been?”

“The duration will continue as I am delivering this answer, but as of the last review, nineteen minutes and zero seconds, approximately, of course.”

Her mind wandered as she sat there feeling the vibrations pulsate along her eyebrows. She thought of her life and days she used to stroll atop the hill just behind her childhood home in Hercules. She could see San Pablo Bay and the twinkle of lights across the water in Marin County. She didn’t understand how significant those days were then; the days when singularity was a choice. The days when the air was fresh and your dreams were free from ads. The air wasn’t always fresh and the ads were there every waking moment, but there were brief periods of escape. Now escape is impossible. Your mind in every state was property and your ability to work was the only thing that guaranteed your next second of unscrutinized existence. There are few things worse than a corporate bureaucracy that never slept or allowed you to.

The vibrations stopped and the test concluded. The doctor quietly left the room. She went to follow behind him, but the door was locked. She sat back down and began to weep. She wiped the tears from here and quickly composed herself. She waited for nearly an hour before the door opened. It was a man she hadn’t seen before. His muscles were large and pushed through his uniform.

“It’s time to go.”

“I know,” she replied.

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Abraham Woodliff

Bay Area native, Hip Hop nerd, literature and poetry enthusiast, freelance writer, gamer, caffeine addict. Follow me on Twitter.