2398, New York
‘We have to do something! The situation is grave. They have everything, and they don’t want anything more. They are bored because they have no motivation for life. What can we still sell them? What can we sell to people who literally have everything?
Look out of the window, misters, and misses! Can you see people on the street? You see only rusty abandoned self-service machines. Useless things! No one uses them since it’s enough to push a button and you immediately receive what you ordered directly to your home. People don’t go shopping, because they can purchase their groceries online. We don’t have clothes shops because fashion is out of fashion. No one cares about Italian style or design. Most of us don’t even know what it was. Bookstores are just fairy tales. If someone wants a book, they surely purchase an audiobook online. Flower stores were the first to die out. Who would want to buy a flower for his date?
By the way, do you have any inkling of that enthusiasm when you first go out with someone you like? You don’t even know what going out to the cinema or restaurant means? Those are ancient memories, and we use their buildings only as museums! People have large movie projectors and food delivery services. Why should they go out at all?
Don’t they have a social life? They may have some primitive interactions with their dogs and cats. In fact, these pets are the only reason why some people are still willing to spring forth from their colorless, dull buildings.
No creativity, no inspiration, no passion. No emotions! Do you understand the consequences of apathy?
This is the end, misters and misses. The end of capitalism. The end of any sense to our existence.’
Marvin is not a man of emotions as he grew up in a passive, flat, disinterested society. How he perceives the whole scene in Detroit at first sight, is as a chaotic, teeming anthill. However, after a short time of being in the city, his eyes open and see what he is looking for. This is how he reports his experiences:
The noises of factories are dinging in the ears like buzzing bugs do in their happiest summertime. You can see people running to work from home, but they still have a moment to have a chit chat in their usual coffee shop. The atmosphere is full of good desires. After work, they visit some shops where they are willing to spend time and money. You can touch the wealth in the air. They have money, but not only that. They are excited to know what the next invention is and run to shop for it or at least to learn what is going on in the world. They possess the fresh curiosity of a toddler who encounters the first train in his life. Curiosity generates enthusiasm. It’s really just a matter of a slight moment when an enthusiastic person turns into a more eager buyer.
He has come to Detroit for a deeply serious reason. He has a mission aimed at the well-being of humanity. But every noble-sounding mission hides personal interests as well! His superiors want to rescue humankind from total apathy because emotionless existence raises indifference to life. Indifference suggests depression. Depression provokes stagnancy or even destruction.
This is a marvelous mission. Let’s ask the question then: why? Who are Marvin’s superiors in the first place?
Apathy causes additional reactions too. Where no emotions, including enthusiasm, curiosity, desire exist, there selling becomes incredibly hard or even impossible. In Martin’s world, people are not interested in buying anymore, because they already possess everything. Or they think they possess everything…
Historically, the most significant technology companies like Apple, Dell, Sony, and others had already developed the most innovative products that humans could ever imagine. This is the point. People no longer imagine things. Apple, Dell, and Sony had become bankrupt almost a century before Marvin’s epoch because people had got bored with their offering. Marvin works for a worldwide time travel machine technology company that is still strong enough to play an influential role in international economic life. But they also are about to break down. They have created thousands of surveys to figure out the market’s demand. People who agreed to respond usually said that they had absolutely no idea what they wanted. Martin’s company has stopped a massive part of its production because they need to solve the ‘apathy issue’ first.
Further questions are needed: how? And what’s Marvin’s assignment in this story?
Marvin is a determined dreamer. Despite his sick society, he has managed to develop real human values. As a dreamer, he tends to follow utopian goals. In his leisure time, he enjoys studying great philosophers, exceptional inventors, history, behavioral sciences, and marketing. He is the odd one from his era.
The only reason why he has accepted this current task is that he believes he can make significant change.
Is change good in any case? Is there another solution?
These issues are disturbing him at the moment.
‘You have to eliminate Henry Ford before he founds his automobile company.’
Marvin has been observing the people of Detroit for a while, and sometimes his assignment slips out of his mind. When he accepted this work, he was told that Henry Ford was the main reason for the apathy of the world.
However, Marvin is an inquisitive type, he wants to have an answer to a particular question before he acts.
‘If he hadn’t developed the assembly line for mass production, people wouldn’t have been overwhelmed with all these technological products and wouldn’t have lost their enthusiasm. If they lose their enthusiasm, they don’t want to buy, and the economy stops. If the economy stops, people won’t have jobs and consequently won’t have food.’ This was told to Marvin. It’s a pity that they forgot to add the real reason: making more profit for themselves, obviously.
Marvin decides to complete the project which he has been sent for from the future. But he doesn’t want to return home without asking the genius inventor the big question. Marvin is a dreamer, and he believes that there is a cure for every disease. If he finds out how to understand people’s needs, the rest will be easy to do. The steps are starting to crystallize in his mind. First, find out what people want, second, produce it, third, sell it. That’s all!
Henry Ford has already built up his second vehicle with the support of Thomas Edison by the time Marvin finds him. Marvin doesn’t want to waste too much time since he has been enjoying life in Detroit for some months already. His superiors want a definitive result immediately.
He is right in Ford’s face, watches his admired role model for some seconds, and asks the critical question:
‘How do you decide which projects to focus on without asking people what they are looking for?’
And here is the critical answer:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
What is the lesson of this story?
Henry Ford is teaching us that visionaries design the future. Dreamers go over data collected from surveys. They can see over the trees. They can see the whole forest.
We want to satisfy market demands, we want to create a hundredth sample of the same type of product. We tend to copy already existing articles because we are taught this is the best way to meet people’s needs.
But what happens when people feel full? What happens when they are so satisfied that they don’t know what they want anymore?
Marketers may satisfy the single requests of the people for a while, but they don’t construct new scenarios and perspectives. Without visionary inventors, life stands still and we risk losing interest. This is the ‘apathy issue’.
Google with google glass, Facebook with augmented reality, Amazon with a drone delivery system and Tesla with its efforts in creating an automobile that drives alone, are constructing a new concept of the future.
How will our future be? Which direction are we going in? Will the future be like that automatized and robotized reality of Marvin?