Once the Hydra noticed its heads were growing smaller and disappearing one after another. That didn’t happen overnight, to be sure, so the Hydra had continued to go about its normal management routine at a media conglomerate without taking any more notice than usual of the number or size of its heads. The brain inside each seemed as filled as always with exciting new disaster-as-entertainment concepts and “celebrity events of the millennium.” Eventually, however, the reality of the situation could no longer be ignored. The first glimmer of awareness that this change towards smaller and fewer heads was underway came when the Hydra noted a decline in the usual debate between them, a debate that could be heated and confused at times but had also given it some confidence that what eventually came out of one of its many mouths was the product of broad consideration. Now it increasingly found itself simply blurting out whatever came first into any of its minds. And it all sounded the same. The Hydra wondered if its colleagues noticed the vanishing heads, but none of them made any mention of it. On the contrary, they too seemed to be losing heads at an accelerating pace and compensating for that at meetings by merely repeating the same ideas from three or four mouths running. Nor did having fewer heads interfere apparently with the basic ability of the media conglomerate as a whole to function, since everyone was clearly “on the same page” more regularly now. It occurred to the Hydra that perhaps the extra heads had actually been unnecessary, or even a hindrance. There was no denying that having to deal with fewer and fewer ideas and competing perceptions of the world was something of a relief. Complex or independent thinking was fine in its day, but this new groupthink was so much more efficient. The practice that had once made the Hydra’s reputation for fearlessly challenging all comers to have their wits about them and, more importantly, to use some of them or suffer the consequences vanished in direct proportion to its own shrinking awareness. Though as it approached its final head, the adjustments required grew steadily less difficult, it was encouraged to find. You evidently didn’t need to understand that much about the world to package it between ads. Besides, the latest must-know information could easily be picked up by skimming through the pages of a few popular magazines owned by your own media conglomerate or scanning the bestseller list of books published by and then promoted your conglomerate, or tuning in to any of the channels it ran and catching the headlines and marathon reruns. When you came right down to it, who really needed all that extra brainpower? Judging from the evidence around it as it sat with colleagues for another PowerPoint summary of the latest media trends, the Hydra guessed you could get by with half a brain, maybe even less. Maybe just one’s reptilian brain would do.
Copyright © 2005, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans