“We have a choice. We can enhance life and come to know the Universe that made us, or we can squander our fifteen billion year heritage in meaningless self destruction.” – Carl Sagan
With Klaus Verbodon at the helm, DopCo International Enterprises (stock symbol DIE) grew into the world’s most profitable conglomerate. The key to Verbodon’s success was a corporate research facility dedicated to studying neurotransmitters.
DopCo used the proprietary research to turn dozens of subsidiaries into the most prestigious names in coffee, tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, gambling, firearms, weapons, attire, vehicles, luxury goods, resorts, cruise ships, yachts, real estate, video games, sports, entertainment, self-improvement, spas, rehabilitation centers, security and mercenary services, prisons, pornography, and especially junk food.
The game changer for DopCo was a controversial report that Klaus understood better than the scientists working on the research. After a careful reading, the DopCo CEO started a computer file and named it Dopamine Rules. Then he condensed the report into 106 points, starting with:
- All human behavior can be explained in terms of protecting and triggering dopamine flow.
- The most common (unacknowledged) addictions are to Maslow’s deficiency needs (d-needs) for safety/power, acceptance/approval/attention, esteem/status.
- D-need addicts rely on dopamine-induced ignorance to avoid, misinterpret, and/or dismiss information that threatens the only thing they care about — dopamine flow.
- Esteem addicts offer enormous profit potential because they’ll overpay for products that trigger dopamine with expectations of inflating esteem.
- It doesn’t matter how much an addict understands about neurotransmitters, he is still an addict.
Klaus Vorbodon grasped the reports’ findings because, decades earlier, he’d spent time in rehab where he reluctantly admitted to alcohol and cocaine addictions. Without that admission, Klaus would have scoffed at the suggestion that it was possible to get addicted to esteem. Without the honesty, he wouldn’t have been able to admit that he’d simply switched from booze and cocaine to esteem addiction. And without the experience, he never would have figured out how the inability to admit to their esteem addictions was keeping the scientists from wanting to comprehend their own research.
As far as Vorbodon was concerned, the less people wanted to know about dopamine-induced ignorance, the easier it was for him to feed his insatiable cravings by identifying, creating, and supplying the dopamine cravings that customers, executives, lawyers, lobbyists, politicians, and other esteem addicts couldn’t admit were ruling, and ruining, their lives.
Klaus knew it was absurd to wreak havoc to score squirts of a chemical manufactured in his brain. Klaus also knew it didn’t matter how much he understood about neurotransmitters. He was an addict, so the only thing he cared about was triggering dopamine with expectations of more, more, more profits, bonuses, toys, and media attention.
Klaus’ s most frustrating challenge was attracting, retaining, and exploiting armies of workers whose jobs couldn’t be exported. Experience had taught him that it was easy to use a lot of money to manipulate the dopamine flow of a select few. The trick was to manipulate the dopamine flow of many with as little money as possible. That’s why, as soon as he learned that his researchers had implanted dopamine regulating devices that tamed aggressive chimpanzees, he scheduled a board meeting.
The event started with a polished video that lauded the scientists’ efforts and set the stage for Verbodon’s presentation. When the lights came on, the calculating CEO explained how the apparatus being tested on chimpanzees could be used to turn low-level employees into, what the marketing department called, enhanced associates and essociates for short. During the discussion that followed, Klaus patiently addressed each concern and reassured skeptics that DopCo was preparing for any and all contingencies.
Before putting the proposal to a vote, Verbodon nodded to an assistant. On cue, the man opened a door and a scientist, with two of the chimpanzees featured in the video, entered the boardroom. The chimpanzees were wearing tuxedos and balancing bottles of pricey champagne and crystal flutes on silver trays. While the group sat in disbelief, Klaus casually reminded everyone that the products, including the tuxedos, were from DopCo subsidiaries.
With the scientist regulating the primates’ dopamine flow from a laptop, the apes placed the trays on a side table, opened the bottles, poured a precise amount of bubbly into each flute, and picked up the trays.
As the chimpanzees served the stunned board members, Klaus boasted, “If we can do this with apes, imagine what we’ll be able to do with essociates.”
When everyone had a glass, he proposed a toast, “To the opportunity of a lifetime!”
The vote to fund the essociates program was unanimous.
The program started with 47 applicants who signed on to earn $5,000. Though the initial results were disappointing, they were encouraging enough to warrant continuing. Flush with cash, a relentless Verbodon drove DopCo’s scientists to solve seemingly insurmountable obstacles while the marketing people utilized fMRIs to craft dopamine-appealing recruitment campaigns.
It took almost two years and a billion dollars to get to the roll out, but it only took a few weeks for Verbodon to conclude that the results were surpassing all expectations. Within months, the program proved so successful, and the essociates so content, that candidates were being turned away.
Competitors, critics, and skeptics did their best to humiliate DopCo’s employees but the essociates were immune to verbal abuse. Thanks to the implants, their dopamine flow was no longer threatened by disapproval. When editorial writers popularized the term dopamine robots the slur backfired and essociates took to calling one another dopbots. Soon, non dopbots were referring to themselves as notbots.
DopCo expanded operations and profits soared as highly qualified applicants competed for a chance to be enhanced into dedicated, complacent, underpaid essociates. Bolstered by press releases hyping enormous cost savings, DopCo’s stock price went through the roof and Klaus Verbodon became, on paper, the world’s richest man. All because he was an esteem addict who understood, better than anyone else, that business wasn’t about products or services, it was about dopamine.
Verbodon thought he died and landed in dopamine heaven. Essociates didn’t care about pay, benefits, holidays, or vacations. When questioned, DopCo employees claimed they were living on less and enjoying life more. As one essociate explained, maintaining her weight was a cinch because the device made healthy portions of nutritious gruel more satisfying than addictive junk foods.
As a bonus, the implants helped essociates understand that they were receiving clean hits of the same neurotransmitter that notbots were scrambling to trigger with drugs, gambling, food, sex, safety, power, acceptance, approval, attention, religion, degrees, jobs, positions, status symbols, and money. Better still, the directly sourced neurotransmitter didn’t come with withdrawal pains, hangovers, lung or liver problems, obesity, STDs, monthly payments, groveling, embarrassment, disappointment, jail sentences, or any other unhealthy, unpleasant, and unnecessary complications.
Preparing for All Contingencies
To secure the essociate program’s success, DopCo tripled its investment in lobbyists, politicians, and judges. Challenges to the dubious legislation, passed to legalize DopCo’s illegal endeavors, were tied up in appeals all the way to the Supreme Court where DopCo’s justices faithfully voted in favor of their generous benefactor.
When questioned about his hypocritical voting record, Justice Scalia quipped, “It’s absurd to suggest that the essociates constitutional rights are being violated. DopCo’s employees are free to leave whenever they want.”
Antonin Scalia, a hopeless attention and esteem addict, conveniently ignored the mounting evidence that proved the essociates were anything but free. In fact, the implants were so effective that no dopbot in his or her right mind was interested in going back to being a notbot.
The Beginning of the End
It took a while, but working-class notbots eventually figured out that the dopbots they mocked were better off than they were. As potential demand for consumer devices grew, entrepreneurs competed to circumvent DopCo’s patents.
DopCo’s strategy included stifling copycats by buying the companies it couldn’t crush in the courts. Klaus went so far as to use his connections to get the U.S. government to crack down on domestic and foreign threats to DopCo’s legalized monopoly. To his dismay, the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and Homeland Securing were no match for smuggling networks set up to supply an international black market with knockoff designer handbags.
The original devise, named Essociate 1, required skilled surgeons to implant the units and hats or wigs to cover transceivers. With each upgrade the devices grew grew smaller, more efficient, and less conspicuous. But the biggest breakthrough was the Essociate 5s, a unit that was half the size of the Essociate 4 and designed to be implanted by minimum-wage essociates.
The first illegal devices, smuggled from China, were so crude that careless notbots literally “knocked themselves out” with excessive dopamine. DopCo jumped at every chance to scare the public with reports of botched implants, permanent brain damage, and painful deaths. Despite DopCo’s efforts, the demand for knockoffs swelled, along with the array of smaller, more reliable, and less expensive models.
Knockoffs started showing up that replaced the need for surgery with electronic wigs, scarves, and baseball caps that were controlled from smart phones. The final blow to DopCo’s fortunes was a unit the size of an earbud that responded to users’ smiles.
DopCo’s sales plummeted as smiling dopbots abandoned dopamine-triggering products. The sales slump started with junk food outlets and quickly spread to luxury goods. Without the cravings that kept notbots destroying their health with addictive foods, dopbots started eating healthily. Fast food chains folded. Beef and commodity prices tanked and farmers were thrown off their land.
Casinos and colleges shut their doors as the dopamine-triggered expectations of hitting jackpots lost all appeal. With dopamine hits only a smile away, theaters, sporting events, video game makers, drug cartels, luxury car makers, religions, and Facebook went out of business.
DopCo International Enterprises closed subsidiaries and competitors declared bankruptcy. Within a year, the GNP slipped by half and companies that didn’t fail slashed payrolls. Faced with the prospect of lifetime unemployment, hordes of notbots begged, borrowed, stole, and sold everything they had to purchase devices.
CEOs bribed the money and power addicts in congress to pass legislation that rescued “too big to fail” businesses. Already bleeding from tax shortfalls, the bailouts bankrupted the treasury. Undeterred, the government printed money until the dollar wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
In the final edition of The New York Times, the last editorial used a Yiddish word to describe how Klaus Verbodon had managed to destroy capitalism. The word was “farpotshket” [fahr POTs' SKEHT] which means broken — specifically because someone tried to fix it and ended up making it worse.
Capitalism had thrived by creating and supplying employees and customers’ dopamine-induced cravings and addictions while deceptions and denials greased the wheels of mindless consumption. Without the cravings and addictions there was no longer a need for most dopamine-triggering substances, products, or beliefs. Capitalism was kaput.
For centuries, humans squandered their waking hours toiling at jobs they hated to earn money to buy dopamine triggers that promised short-term rewards and delivered long-term misery. Suddenly a cheap device and a smile were all it took to trigger optimum amounts of the powerful neurotransmitter. And for the first time, enough people understood (that the only thing anyone cared about was protecting and triggering dopamine flow) to make a difference.
Dopbots didn’t need the drugs, status symbols, religions, junk foods, junk news, junk bonds, or other diversions that once kept them from understanding they were sharing a miracle. Instead of being slaves to dopamine-induced expectations, they appreciated what mattered — clean air and water, family, friends, health, sunrises, sunsets, and beauty everywhere they looked. Most of all, they had one another.
Verbodon pressed congressional addicts to make a last-ditch effort to prosecute dopbots but the remaining police and federal agents (working for worthless dollars) were more interested in becoming dopbots than harassing them. When congress passed laws to deny dopbots the right to vote, the dopbots staged a general strike that forced the corrupt addicts in congress to resign. Emergency elections were held and corporate controlled politicians lost to dedicated, honest, rational dopbots committed to protecting citizens and environments.
Notbots who refused to become dopbots were offered treatment, at no charge, for their addictions.
Klaus Verbodon lost everything and was found guilty for a long list of crimes. As punishment, he was locked up for 16 life sentences and denied the right to ever become a dopbot. Klaus didn’t care because he was triggering plenty of dopamine with expectations of going down in history with the likes of Ford, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Rockefeller, Walsh, Gates, and Jobs. Not bad for a boy who started out unwanted, unloved, abused, and abandoned.
Ironically, large numbers of addictive types, who couldn’t pass up the temptation to try devices that flooded their brains with excessive dopamine, had a great time eliminating their DNA from the gene pool.
The absence of out-of-control addicts made it possible for joyful, smart, smiling dopbots, who appreciated and enjoyed their favorite neurotransmitter in moderation, to live happily ever after.