A work-life balance may be one of the most difficult relationships to maintain as an adult. Taking work home can burden your social life and handling personal issues at work can weaken your job performance. Syfy’s new science fiction drama Incorporated explores a future that precludes that balance because everyone’s shelter, food, and, literally, life is controlled by the corporations they work for.
The show is set in the year 2074. Climate change has ravaged the world and bankrupted governments, which has lead to multinational corporations controlling 90 percent of the globe. Since resources are scarce, the land is separated into two zones: Green and Red. The Green Zone is the corporation-controlled section with the modern amenities and plush life reserved for people who are employees or their immediate relatives. The Red Zone is in perpetual squalor with limited to no resources reserved for everyone that is not permitted into the Green Zone.
Digital Trends previewed the first five episodes of the new season, which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET. It’s strange, eerie, and got us thinking. So, in honor of the premiere, we picked four nightmarishly realistic scenarios from the show and how they differ from real life. (SOME VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.)
Giving birth becomes a luxury
In real life, for a business, hiring someone is essentially an investment and some corporations try to minimize how much time that investment is not working. Up until last year, the United Postal Service was sued for pregnancy discrimination after it required a pregnant worker to go on unpaid leave — causing her to lose her medical coverage — due to her informing the company a medical professional recommended she stop doing heavy lifting.
Incorporated showed us how good we have it. In the show, companies show prospective parents a video that explains how “the corporation demands your peak performance at all time” and how pregnancy is the leading cause of marital strife and divorce. Natural births are considered a liability as the corporation would have no way of controlling which genetic defects or abnormalities that could show up in the child. And so the new way of having children in the Green Zone involves using a surrogate known as a “gestator.” For those who want to do it the old-fashioned way, the couple will get no health care assistance from the corporation and will have to pay for everything themselves.
Non-Disclosure Agreement = memory wiping
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) are pretty standard employment contracts that usually stipulate an employee can not speak about private company information or speak bad about the company either during or after employment. Google once fired someone hired to promote Chromebooks at Best Buy stores for posting a picture of himself with the Google uniform on social media prior to the Google I/O event in 2012. NDAs are serious business, but not normally life threatening.
In a show where corporations are fighting over natural resources, potentially leaking classified information puts one character in Incorporated under treason charges. Once the corporation deems the employee no longer valuable, it executes their NDA. Executing an NDA in Incorporated means wiping that person’s memory clean of all knowledge. (Yes, all knowledge. Not just of their time at the company.) It’s hard to leak secrets when you don’t even know who you are.
Non-compete clauses come with a kill switch
Similar to NDAs, non-compete clauses in contracts have commonly stipulated that an employee agrees to not work for a competing employer as a means to protect the company’s intellectual property from being used by competitors. But, in the technology field where cell phone carriers are also providing TV service, almost every company is a competitor to another, making it hard for people to have careers. The punishment is usually a hefty fine, but never your life.
In Incorporated, corporations play the role of the government and anyone wanting to change jobs is referred to as a “defector.” To preclude defections, high ranking executives possessing sensitive company information are implanted with a virus that contains a kill switch that will terminate that person if they try to leave the company.
Your paycheck is entirely based on company’s value
Cryptocurrencies are becoming so popular that some people are being paid entirely in Bitcoin. Unlike dollars, the value of a these cryptocurrencies have a history of being volatile, with one Bitcoin being worth $500 one day and $400 the next. It would be pretty inconvenient if you never knew how much your paycheck would be worth.
That fear is a game in Incorporated where people living in the the Red Zone are not paid in dollars but instead are paid in the currency of their employer, referred to as “Black Coin.” The best chance for those people to get better pay is to “roll a surge,” referring to a split-second in the market where the exchange rate makes a considerable jump before leveling off. In essence, every paycheck is a gamble.
These are just a few of the nightmare scenarios in Incorporated. The show debuts tonight at 10 p.m. ET on the Syfy channel. The pilot episode can be streamed on YouTube for free.