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Topic Review: Megacorps - Printable Version

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RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Drashner1 - 09-11-2020

(09-11-2020, 01:46 PM)Dfleymmes1134 Wrote:
(09-10-2020, 09:38 PM)Rynn Wrote: The biggest thorn with megacorps IMO is automation. We have really advanced automation turning up relatively early in the timeline (First Fed era) so how do we square that with megacorps?

My proposal would be to embrace it and write out the idea that megacorps are like companies today which are full of employees. Instead make megacorps of the first fed era and after conglomerations of autonomous businesses and financial institutions. AI companies with robotic laborers with the hardwired goal of increasing shareholder value. If you can buy into a megacorp as a shareholder then you can enjoy your post-scarcity lifestyle financed by a dividend from an automated actor in the economy.

yes I like this approach. I'm guessing in the early timeline there'd still be some people employed by such organizations to oversee some of the autonomous production before vots are fully developed. But otherwise it's mostly automated.

While I'm not actually against this idea, I think there are some issues around it we will need to address if we want to go in this direction. In no particular order:

1) We have automation advancing pretty fast now in RL and by the time of the Technocalypse it's at the point of von Neumann machines operating on Mercury (and possibly in other places), AI starprobes, and human equivalent AI (implying less than human level, but still very capable AI being around as well). Point being that I think we would need to move the timeline on this - and the impact on society - up by centuries to the Interplanetary Age prior to the Technocalypse. Even more complete automation might come later in the timeline, but the handwriting on the wall in RL seems to indicate (IMHO) that - barring some social event that slows it down - automation is going to be hitting the level Rynn describes in terms of social impact well before the First Fed.

2) A high automation/shareholder owned megacorp type thing might be workable, but it begs the question of what such a thing would be in terms of a social institution. Megacorps employing lots of people and taking over as the basis for the social compact for their employees (and possibly shareholders) is a new form of society. Megacorps consisting of an almost entirely automated infrastructure, a few modos in some positions, and a bunch of faceless shareholders - are just kind of a force of nature. That's not a problem by itself - but it makes the idea of megacorps operating as an alternative to the Federation later in timeline more or less impossible, it seems to me. Or at least much more difficult to see how that is supposed to work. This also overlaps with the occasional idea of the megacorps not necessarily being the most ethical organizations in existence. Again, if they're just mindlessly grinding systems (albeit highly capable mindlessly grinding systems) this sort of goes out the window.

3) It's been mentioned/suggested that the megacorps might have employed some number of heavily augmented employees in some fashion. If the megacorps are basically just each a big machine with no need for employees from very early on, then it would seem there would be no need for these employees either.

4) Presuming automation of the level needed to make a megacorp an essentially autonomous entity - such tech would presumably also apply for smaller organizations as well. Which raises the question: Wouldn't it seem likely that the smaller businesses and financial institutions mentioned are also pretty much entirely automated systems with few/no employees as well? Unless there's some limiting factor somewhere, it starts to feel like turtles all the way down (so to speakTongue).

Again, not saying that this conception of megacorps isn't doable - but I think there are some questions and side effects (both in setting and editorially) that we need to consider while considering going down this road. It almost feels like we're tapdancing on having to take on the project of imagining how a high automation economy would actually work in detail.

Thoughts?

Todd


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Drashner1 - 09-14-2020

So - after letting this percolate a bit more, I had some further thoughts on how to incorporate Rynn's ideas into the Megacorp rewrite - to wit (and pulling in some text from the existing articles):

a) The first megacorps had their beginnings in the mid-to-late Information and early Interplanetary Age. This period saw great disruption to the economic models of the previous centuries. Automation was gradually eroding the bedrock of capitalism as demand for sophont labour fell with each passing decade. Many nations and transnational organizations experimented with various types of guaranteed basic income or similar economic instruments to attempt to cope with this.

b) One of the most successful was the development of 'microshares' - Sophonts could purchase partial shares of company stock at a proportionally reduced price and returning a proportionally reduced dividend. In and of themselves these microshares counted for very little when compared against all the shares a company might offer and . But over time even individuals of modest means could accumulate enough shares (and therefore dividends) to augment their regular income or even supplant it entirely without any need for further work on their part.

c) More importantly, while the individual portfolio of any one micro-investor might be insignificant, the sheer number of such investors meant that the cumulative total of their portfolios - and therefore their voting power - could be quite large indeed. Groups of microinvestors - coordinated via social media and specialized online voting and feedback systems began exercising more and more control over the direction, policies, and even day to day operations of the corporations they invested in. The advent of DNI only accelerated and expanded this process.

d) The 'megacorps' gained their name, not from the size of their assets or the number of their employees, but from the vast numbers of shareholders each came to possess.

e) Over time, the number of employees of the megacorps dropped, but the number shareholders (including shareholders living partly or entirely on dividend income) grew. DNI based voting, surveys and (on the other side) attempts to influence shareholders to vote for a particular direction for each company became ever more sophisticated and took up ever more time and attention for a subset of the shareholders. This led to two trends within the megacorp 'ecosystem':

i) Shareholders voted in AI CEOs or even entire Boards of Directors to manage the day to day operations of the megacorp more efficiently and with less need of the shareholders attention.

ii) Shareholders augmented themselves with various cybernetic enhancements to allow them to better grasp the operations of the megacorp, inform their votes, and persuade other shareholders to vote in coordination with them.

g) Much of the population that would have once worked for the megacorps instead found employment providing services or goods to either the megacorps or to a subset of their many shareholders, who used their dividend income to purchase goods and services from individual or small group businesses due to a desire for personalized or personal products and services rather than corporate produced items. The megacorps themselves often produced items and services for shareholders, people living on other forms of guaranteed income, or governments or other megacorps.

f) Around this time, the Technocalypse and then the Great Expulsion destroyed much of civilization, including many of the megacorps. Those that survived into and beyond the Dark Age often did so in much reduced circumstances and forms - often taking the form of a sort of capitalist cyberdemocracy based around voting shares or similar.

g) With the rise of the Federation, the surviving megacorps began to grow back toward their former glory and then beyond as well as some of them evolving in various ways. This was driven by a combination of factors including needing to operate across interstellar distances, competition (occasionally real, more often just perceived) with transapients, and the growing complexity of civilization. This evolution took various forms, but two of the most common were:

1) Megacorps being run entirely by AI and automation - often transapient. They provided comfortable dividends to their shareholders and - via sophisticated (often transapient) memgineering, more often than not influenced their shareholders to operate as the controlling mind(s) thought best. The mega numbers of shareholder controllers had become the controlled.

2) Megacorps evolving via the use of Unityware or similar variants into various types of group mind, hivemind, or other closely networked society. Shareholders augmented their intelligence, often to superturing levels and linked together into larger, sometimes transapient or transavant group minds. In many cases, the transapient CEOs ascended from earlier AI CEOs were joined with vast numbers of heavily augmented shareholders to form an overmind, which itself might be ascended to a higher S-level than the CEO. Or have spikes of ability in various areas an S-level beyond that of the CEO.

h) When the First Federation began the Fall, the megacorps moved to fill the power vacuum left behind. Some sought to merely fill the gap left by the Federation while others aimed to replace the Federation ontology with new 'corporate ontologies' that they felt would operate more efficiently than the ancient Federation standard (or at the least would operate in a way that better served the megacorps interest). Not all polities and groups agreed with this goal and other rival powers pushed their own goals. And rising above them all, new levels of post-Singularity mind begin to appear.

i) The megacorps are eventually surpassed by the archailects, the Second Federation Ontology, and later the sephirotic memesets - but they never entirely go extinct. They persist even into the Current Era - offering both income or even wealth in those cultures that still use such things and a path to nearly post-singularity intelligence (or sometimes beyond) that includes an established support framework and community within the 'corporate culture' of the megacorp group mind itself. Members of some megacorps share some similarities with the augmented intelligence of the Bureaucrats of the Terran Federation for example.

Or something like that. I think this provides a path forward from what Rynn has described. Also lets us start exploring different types of group minds, and adds a new type of entity to the setting.

Thoughts?

Todd


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - QwertyYerty - 09-28-2020

Drashner's idea sounds awesome. Has it been made into a article yet?


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Dfleymmes1134 - 09-28-2020

(09-28-2020, 02:19 PM)QwertyYerty Wrote: Drashner's idea sounds awesome. Has it been made into a article yet?

https://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/485dadd694a19
the history of megacorps

we're revising this article and combining it with some recent thoughts and discussions, as you can see in post #2 of this thread
i've been waiting (and busy with life) and letting this sit and process in the back of my head and also waiting for anyone else if they want to contribute thoughts 
before I collect all these points from the discussion into an article, unless someone else does it first.


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Rakuen07 - 09-28-2020

I had a few ideas and thoughts I'd like to share about Megacorps:

1) Why the East India Company is cited in the Megacorp article as one of the earliest precursors of the megacorps? 

Well, the first answer that came to my mind is because the EIC (East India Company) was a very large commercial entity for its time. However, both the Megacorp article and all your thoughts on the matter made me conclude this explanation isn't enough. After some research in the Wikipedia, I found that the East India Company was one of the driving forces that kicked up the globalization process. Here's what Wikipedia says:

Quote:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-globalization

Much of the trading during the proto-globalization time period was regulated by Europe. Globalization from an economic standpoint relied on the East India Company. The East India Company was a number of enterprises formed in western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, initially created to further trade in the East Indies. The company controlled trading from India to East and Southeast Asia.

Lets summarize the EIC life: it started out as a purely commercial entity, gained great size and clout, spread out to a trans-national scale, made itself a key part on international interconnection (by providing a medium of exchange of goods, technology, ideas, etc, between multiple regions of the world) and began to act in ways that transcended its original economic purpose. Doesn't this seems familiar? This leads to...

2) My thoughts on what makes a Megacorp a megacorp:

According to the original megacorp article:

Quote:To sophonts from empires in which megacorp presence has waned or was never there to begin with it is common to view them as simply large commercial entities. This is an understandable mistake, whilst megacorps do operate large commercial arms the majority of groups within the megacorp have little to do with trade. Megacorps have often been called "meta-organisations" as they are most often groups of all kinds united together into one organisation for the purposes of mutual aid, regulation, protection and influence. Commercial, political, religious, scientific and cultural groups are amongst the most common of megacorp membership. Whether the group in question is a system wide government or a local neogen hobby team megacorps welcome any that can help further the goals of the entire organisation. Eminent megacorpologist Chadder Wren once described membership as "opening up a world of connections from which resources and favours can be drawn, and offered."

The parts in bold and the ideas I presented about the EIC made me conclude that: Megacorps are organizations that became sufficiently large, then transcends its initial (and solely economical) purpose and become akin to a socioeconomic ecosystem that if somehow were to be isolated from the rest of the universe would still be able to provide for most (or all) the needs of its shareholders. Indeed, we can see that some very big corporations are evolving in this direction: Google, for instance, transcended its original purpose of providing a search engine and nowadays it also maintain itself by also providing tools such as productivity enhancement and time management softwares, e-mail, cloud storage, messaging tools, a translator, a video-sharing platform, and even hardware!

Thoughts?


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - The Astronomer - 11-17-2020

Not sure if it's been mentioned before or not, but I think the label 'megacorp' is a sort of umbrella term covering a very wide range of entities whose only shared quality is the fact that they started out as economic entities? There could be systems that are more popular and such, but ultimately there is no single method they're operated.

(Basically this is just a slightly longer version of your usual lazy 'bump' message)


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Drashner1 - 11-17-2020

Lots of balls in the air atm, some OA related, some not. In some cases, I've had to make the decision to give the other thing priority over this.

However, I have the week of Thanksgiving off and another week between Xmas and New Years - so I'm hopeful I'll be able to finally get started on the Megacorp rewrite during one or both of those times.

Also, at least some of the other balls in the air should be dealt with by then and so free up some more time.

Thanks!

Todd


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Technothrope - 11-18-2020

There's a lot of great discussion here about megacorps from a capitalist perspective. It also touches upon corporations being managed via direct democracy. Eclipse Phase has some interesting ideas on using social capital and direct democracy in a democratic socialist culture to manage group projects for the benefit of a society as a whole. Perhaps as megacorporate identities in OA are explored, a discussion of their functions in different economic systems might be a good inclusion?


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Dfleymmes1134 - 11-18-2020

(11-18-2020, 05:23 AM)Technothrope Wrote: There's a lot of great discussion here about megacorps from a capitalist perspective. It also touches upon corporations being managed via direct democracy. Eclipse Phase has some interesting ideas on using social capital and direct democracy in a democratic socialist culture to manage group projects for the benefit of a society as a whole. Perhaps as megacorporate identities in OA are explored, a discussion of their functions in different economic systems might be a good inclusion?

Yes, certainly
you're welcome to add some ideas like what eclipse phase talks about
there would be a wide variety of different forms of "megacorps" and I think half the discussion we've had was more of megacorps from some kind of post-capitalist/ cooperative perspective AFAIK

although originally megacorps were supposed to be some kind of massive multinational company which took on some function of the state, there might also be some kind of nation-state owned megacorps

this whole discussion might be complicated? by the fact that 'default' OA society is both post-capitalist -and- post-communist by the time of the first federation even if it resembles some kind of communist utopia, because all or most of the labor is automated/ preformed by vots
so saying that we're talking about megacorps here from a capitalist perspective might be a bit like saying we're trying to talk about modern companies from a feudalist perspective


RE: Topic Review: Megacorps - Technothrope - 11-18-2020

Wicked. I'll review any pre-existing megacorporate discussions before posting new ideas.