Image from Bernd Helfert
Vast meta-organisations that once shaped much of Terragen life. Some academics trace their nascent origins back to the fifth century b.t., citing such organisations as the East India Company as sharing many of the attributes of later megacorps. Consensus however, suggests that true megacorps evolved out of the powerful and wealthy mercantile conglomerates of the Interplanetary Age. These giants of industry and finance would later undergo another radical transformation as enhancers and safety providers for post scarcity economic automation. Through these developments the megacorps drove commerce and economics throughout the known worlds for nearly two thousand years.
The period of history most dominated by the megacorporations spanned from the eleventh to the twenty-seventh centuries. During the middle era of the Federation of Sophonts the megacorps, conglomerates of commercial entities, grew to new heights across interstellar space. Trade infrastructure (such as trade embassies) allowed for cooperative commercial activities despite the decades of communications latency. During this period megacorps grew wealthy by sharing extensive, private portfolios of intellectual property between franchised systems. Using this pool of knowledge, branches would trade in the local habitat economies, acquiring new assets to add to the collective. Billions were employed by megacorps, working in all manner of professions both long term and ad-hoc, providing a strong economic backbone to the era.
The slow fragmentation of the Federation as inter-system tensions grew provided an opportunity for some megacorps. Some branches took increasing liberties with influencing local politics, and extralegal activities. Others used the weakening of Federation institutions to offer their own services to member habitats. In particular, corporate ontologies were offered as alternatives to those developed by the Federation. These packages of concepts and their relations aimed to cater specifically to local mindtypes, increasing harmony and productivity at the expense of broader compatibility between the more radically different clades of the time. Some historians note that subtle memetic engineering included in these ontologies gave rise to cultural traits more amenable to market economics.
Left unchecked, a commercial golden age might have dawned for the megacorps. However, despite the decline of the Federation, a new revolution was steadily progressing throughout colonised space. The development of virtual bots, generally intelligent but lacking in conscious identity, provided a foundation for the post scarcity revolution. Market economics began to be supplanted in favour of post labour models. Megacorps found themselves with dwindling employee numbers, all the while having to compete against vot hives offering their potent services for free. A few megacorps, titans of previous ages, chaotically dissolved. Others disbanded less acrimoniously. However some managed to adapt and find a niche in the new economic ecosystems. Automation may have significantly diminished the demand for sophont labour, but it was not without its risks. Early vot-led systems had to be monitored for goal misalignment, and behaviour drift. The disasters of AI control in previous ages, such as the Frontier project, would not be repeated by the more reliable vots. But any sufficiently complex vot left operating for prolonged periods was likely to drift in its interpretation of its goal, and of the acceptable methods by which it might be achieved.
As the sun set on the Federation the remaining megacorps pivoted to base the foundations of their organisations on vot safety and performance. To this end, sophonts were trained and recruited for three key professions. These professions would become staples for the small percentage of terragenkind regularly employed in this era:
Auditor - As sophont experts on intelligent systems, auditors performed routine inspections of automation. This added a layer of trust beyond automated diagnostics. If an auditor discovered minor drift they were typically able to correct it, but if the issue was too complex they would call for an empathist.
Empathist - Sophonts trained in a variety of sociological fields and moral philosophy. In the event of behaviour drift in an automated system, empathists would interface with the device in question. While connected they would engage in conscious and unconscious dialog with the governing vot. Through this process the automation would re-derive its goals from the empathist, and re-align its behaviour into acceptable parameters.
Operator - Becoming rarer over time operators, were heavily augmented sophonts, typically beta-testing the latest augmentations for their clade. The members of this bleeding edge could be deployed to work alongside automation, increasing its capability through a synergy of skills. Operators were particularly desirable during large scale or experimental projects, where their ability to improve efficiency resulted in significant gains. As automation became increasingly sophisticated this profession became rarer.
Through the provision of these services, megacorps accumulated local credit. As with their previous incarnations they would use this credit to accumulate portfolios of assets, though this was of a lesser focus and was more typically used to provide a cataloged of goods and services for members rather than sold to customers. Megacorps additionally utilised their vot performance expertise to enhance their own automated systems. Employee numbers dropped significantly, replaced with automated subsidiaries that would compete against freely available automation by offering better value.
Megacorp culture during this period was markedly different from the simpler financial goals of previous eras. Rather than being employed by megacorps, sophonts could apply for membership. Members could enjoy access to the megacorp portfolio of goods and services, which in certain cases were greater in diversity and capability than what local automation could provide. In return, members agreed to perform certain duties if and when they were required. These duties ranged wildly, but were often in service to the core vot safety professions. Trialing experimental augmentations, taking part in social studies, or allowing one's mind to be scanned for useful skills were just some examples of member duties. Membership was often tiered, with higher tier members having greater expectations on their time in return for deeper portfolio access. At the highest levels, members could acquire part ownership of a megacorp and gain proportional voting rights over corporate policy.
More than a few megacorps embraced tribemind, and later hive mind protocols in order to stay competitive against "free" vot clouds. By linking together thousands, and in some cases millions, of members, productivity and creativity increased near exponentially. The cost of coordination within these enterprises reduced, allowing the corporate hives to respond with a level of unity and agility previously unseen in organisations of such size. Common clades adopted by sophonts of these group minds included the Highbrows and Homo Economicus. While one's identity as an individual eroded in these megacorps, the corporate mind as a whole enjoyed vastly greater material resources and often exceeded the capabilities of recursively-improving vots (often limited in their capability for safety reasons), at least for a time.
Several megacorporations were notable for being under the direct control of one or more transapients. Correspondingly, these corporations saw a significant increase in their holdings, however many historical studies have suggested that these megacorps were merely convenient vessels for transapient influence over the wider Terragen culture. Others argue a less cynical position, pointing out that transapients would always possess de facto control over any modosophont organizations in their proximity, and therefore those that took the reins overtly were likely to approve of the corporation's aims and culture. Whatever the reason, the megacorporations steadily declined in size as the Age of Establishment dawned. Centuries of refinement in automation science (much of it conducted by automated research facilities) reduced the demand for megacorp vot services. The private portfolios of intellectual property stagnated, and were superseded by those created through non-sophont labour. Ultimately the rise of economies and societies protected by the nascent archai put an end to the giants of interstellar commerce.
Not all aspects of megacorporations were lost from the galaxy. Empathist mental augmentations, designed to help model intelligent systems and facilitate consensus, were utilised in the development of the broader empath clades. Some megacorp branches evolved into Great Houses, dynasties that ruled through oligarchic control of automation. In the Current Era, the megacorp model persists only in fringe societies, or those where automation is less capable (by necessity or choice). These institutions are largely limited to the NoCoZo, various midtech prim systems, and some Deeper Covenant trade networks. Most Sephirotic Empires have no use for megacorps, or their ecosystem of market economics.
- Adams Helium - Text by Anders Sandberg
Megacorp, later House, of gas giant miners in the Beta Virginis system
- AgentNet - Text by Anders Sandberg (slightly modified by M. Alan Kazlev)
A well known interfacing firm through which one may hire a team to undertake something quasi-legal without revealing one's own identity.
- Altair Knowledge Designs (AKD) - Text by Anders Sandberg
The first hypersentient alife species to evolve.
- Ancillary Corporations - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Corporations and megacorporations which provide goods and services for other corporations and megacorporations. An important component of enterprise type corporate polities. The vast majority of corporations in the Inner Sphere are ancillary.
- Arcadian Biotopics - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Arcadian megacorp; created the weem and many other popular neogens.
- Big Five - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The five main interstellar development megacorporations of the First Federation period - Truth-Santaya Networks, TakiCorb, Terranova Foundation, K4H, and SecureSpace. In the colonies they were very often a law unto themselves. They eventually merged to become the NoCoZo.
- Birnam Ecotech - Text by Anders Sandberg
One of the major environment design and terraforming consultancy firms of the First Federation. It eventually merged with the Conver Ambi, adding its expertise to the ruthless ambition and economic power of the corporation/religion/empire.
- Ceres Astrospace - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
First Federation ship design and building megacorp.
- Company-Owned World - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
A planet controlled by a company or corporation and run for profit. This system was very common during the later Interplanetary and the first Federation eras, and has remained common throughout many sparsely settled regions in the outer volumes where there is little government or policing regulation.
- Contelligence - Text by Anders Sandberg
Clade of aioid business beings, descended from the first federation era New Mars think tank Contelligence.
- Corporate Dirty Data - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Confidential financial information about a megacorporation that can be sold on the black market.
- Corporate Religions - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
See Philosophy of Abundance.
- Corporate Transcension - Text by Anders Sandberg, Todd Drashner, and Stephen Inniss
The transcension of an entire megacorp. Sometimes called transruptcy, since like bankruptcy it typically means the effective dissolution of the original organization.
- Cryoinvest - Text by Anders Sandberg
Cryoinvest became the largest Novan cryonics investment firm during the First Federation era. Now specialises in nanostasis time-shifting investment opportunities.
- Dauntless Incorporated - Text by Chris Shaeffer
Private Defense Agency
- Eä Mulsystems - Text by Anders Sandberg
First Federation megacorporation. Eä Mulsystems emerged from the merger of Graphos Habeng and Kbelt Aitronics in 1107 AT. It soon became a major development of integrated AI solutions, controlled environments and habitat infrastructure. Although it had no interstellar traffic on its own, it constructed starship habitats and space networks in other solar systems for many other megacorporations.
- Ergod Munts - Text by Anders Sandberg
Chaos control arms dealers of Fons Luminis; widespread in the 6400's but apparently imploded economically in 6583. The corporation-intelligence (the employees were all linked into an AI-culture constructed by The Church of the Resurrected Ea) announced its withdrawal and dissolution, and disbanded in an ordered manner.
- Eschatronics Unlimited - Text by Anders Sandberg
Sterilization corporation/clade from the MPA, handling the dangerous but profitable work of cleaning up after uncontrolled transcendence events. It is notable for employing baselines and baseline-equivalent nearbaselines in some positions.
- Galactic Information Bank - Text by John B
The most profitable of several NoCoZo megacorps which maps, makes easily searchable, and caches large sections of the Known Net for its subscribers.
- GeneTEK - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
An important Interplanetary Age biotech corporation, GeneTEK incorporated into the "biopunk" Genetekker culture/clade. It was one of the few corps to survive the Technocalypse, and went on to dominate the First Federation biotech industry as a megacorp, and survives in ossified form as House Genen. Some small hyperturing-run neo-GeneTEK type biocorporations can still be found flourishing in the Zoeific Biopolity to this day.
- Hidalgo Emergent Order - Text by Anders Sandberg
Hidalgo Emergent Order was a very expansive tweak-cyborg clade/corp that flourished during the late Federation and Expansion ages, setting up asteroid-based societies in the region between Capella and Pollux and becoming an important regional superpower. Using aggressive in vitro techniques they cloned large populations, but were unable to prevent Conver Ambi from gaining a monopoly on vital nanodesign objects, giving them an ever stronger hold on the Order. Eventually most of the Order joined the Conver Ambi, with the exception of a number of habitats that committed collective suicide.
- Hosoko Posthegemonic Management Network - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Megacorp-Polity that developed out of the Hopomane Empire. The Network rebuilt the links to the region and set itself up as the rulers. It is something between a megacorp and an empire, and thanks to its increasing profitability the owner worlds are reaping great benefits. The inhabitants of Hopomane are not as enthusiastic.
- Hyperion - Text by ProxCenBound, Rakuen07, Todd Drashner, and Worldtree
One of the earliest transapients, eventually controlling a megacorporation and later founding its own small short-lived empire on the edge of Terragen space.
- Industrial Upgradation Incorporated - Text by Basu
Transap Megacorp dedicated to upgrading modosophont societies with transapient technology.
- Intralaunch - Text by Anders Sandberg
First Federation Era Megacorporation.
- Jupiter Transystems - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
First Federation period interstellar development megacorporation
- Jurassic Orbitals - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
First Federation theme park in CisLunar orbit. Featured a number of reconstructed and lazurogened dinosaurs and other extinct fauna and flora, many built with genome in storage from Jurassic Enterprises. Among several dinosaur splices and provolves, the derived Dorrahsa - a race of sapient Troodontids, later became well established throughout the galaxy.
- Kontore League, The - Text by Steve Bowers
Exploration/colonisation megacorp founded by exiles from the continent of Europe after the Great Expulsion.
- LinnEnt (Linnaeus Enterprises) - Text by Steve Bowers
A commercial empire in the First Federation era and beyond, dedicated to colonising new systems using Engenerator technology.
- LungFusion - Text by Anders Sandberg with some notes by M. Alan Kazlev
First Federation era Penglaiese megacorp. Lung Fusion was for a long time the largest Penglaiese energy corporation, specialising in atmospheric converters, power plants and energy networks. During the imperial period it was aggressively expansionist, using profitable deals with various government factions as well as opportunistic alliances with various hyperturing guanxis to further its growth and become an interstellar megacorp. The corp was made a Conver Ambi subsidiary, and disappeared even before the start of the Second Empires War.
- Marketer Fleet, The - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Marketing cult and para-religion.
- Neuropoll Inc. - Text by Anders Sandberg
Neuropoll Inc. is a polling firm that dates back to the Integration, often exploiting advanced psychological and neurological methods to extract as much data they can. They were most known for the neuropollsters, when in the early 6300s, 20,000 citizens of New Emerton (Smith Plexus, NoCoZo) were wired with a system making it possible for Neuropoll to measure their reactions to a variety of products, everyday phenomena and their desires; this data is then mined to find trends, mood estimates and fashion vectors.
- Origin of Megacorporations, The - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg; updated by Ryan B and Todd Drashner
The earliest origins of the megacorps and the history of their predecessors.
- Philosophy of Abundance, The - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The Corporate Religions of the later First Federation period.
- Pi Hermes - Text by Anders Sandberg
Among the more interesting organisations, the original Pi Hermes began during the early Federation period as a detective agency with an unique concept: they recorded virch immersives based on their cases, exciting real-life documentaries about the work of investigators, in which the vircher actually became the detective working on a real (not a fictional or simulated) case as it happens. So successful was this concept that every so often a Pi Hermes media clone is established. At the present stardate there are several thousand pihermes throughout the Inner Sphere (mostly on NoCoZo worlds).
- Sargeant Garruf - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Pseudo-military Corporate Cannibal food chain, early Separate Empires period to today; one of many CrustClown King imitators.
- Technologies For Worship - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Sophic League megacorp that provides technology useful for to modosophont religions.
- Terranova Foundation - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
One of the five main interstellar development megacorporations (or Big Five) of the First Federation period.
- Trade Federation - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Under this system of government, each member polity rules itself and has its own laws, but all polities have signed a trade agreement. This agreement promises not only free trade between all the member polities but also serves as a mutual peace treaty. The different polities avoid interfering with each other's internal affairs. In some cases, if one polity is attacked, the others will join it to fight the common enemy.
- Tragon - Text by Anders Sandberg
Exploration corporation/house of the STC, active across accessible space. Named after the mythical "searching robot lizard" of Kolmorian mythology, the organization has been active since the 7000s. It has invested heavily in the Carina Rush and in a recent series of expansion stargates deep into the Sagittarius arm.
- Transruptcy - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The aftermath of corporate transcension.
- Trillicon Arms - Text by Anders Sandberg
NoCoZo megacorp based on Atlantis, famous for selling weapons of all kinds, mostly to ordinary sophonts.
- Uservere Affair, The - Text by Anders Sandberg
MPA megacorp which collapsed, causing a major crisis in the hypereconomy of the Sephirotic Empires.
- Xweak - Text by Anders Sandberg
Disinformation corporation, based in Cyberia.
- Yasamura Artificial Environments Corporation - Text by Aaron Hamilton
The most successful of the Sagawa-descended hyperturing subsidiaries of the Federation period, Yasamura Artificial Environments Corporation was one of the first corporations that developed standard terraforming equipment and procedures; including nanites and large bioreactors.
Text by M Alan Kazlev
Updated by Ryan B
Initially published on 10 June 2000.
Updated July 2022