Sunday, April 19, 2020

Where Politics and Business Collide

In cyberpunk fiction, megacorps rule the world.

But in our world, why would they?

Old-school cyberpunk fiction was framed as a critique of hypercapitalism. Megacorporations have the same political clout as governments, if not more so. They are the true rulers of the world. Their word is law, and their agents are above the law. With this power, they...

Push an endless cycle of products?

If so, why would they need to rule the world?

And, conversely, if they aim to rule the world, why would they focus on pushing products as well? Governance requires a much different mindset from business, and with it a different set of strategies and skills.

And if they want to do both, why not just divide the labour like true hypercapitalists would?

A megacorp by necessity is profit-focused. It exists to make money for its owners, shareholders, directors and employers, and to make money it has to be ruthlessly focused on business. Profitable business.

The business of government is not profitable.

Governments are responsible for countless day-to-day tasks. Ensuring the buses and trains run on time, maintaining sewage and electricity lines, cleaning streets and bins, maintaining law and order, and so on. None of these tasks are profit centres. Even for businesses that specialise in these areas, they make their money primarily from government contracts.

These are public goods. All of society benefits from having these goods, but no single person or organization is capable of shouldering the burden of buying them from providers -- or that those who do have no incentive to buy these services for people outside their circles. Thus, governments collect tax revenues from the people so they can provide these essential services.

Moreover, it makes no sense for a megacorporation to diversify into such fields if it has no pre-existing industrial or knowledge base for them, and if it can't make a profit from them. A megacorp would rather leave such business to the government--or another megacorp, one that isn't a competitor.
And that's what happened in real life.

The British East India Company is the closest thing the world has seen to a megacorp. It had a private army, it ruled large swathes of India, it had power to rival the British government.

During the period of Company rule, it ruled its holdings as a sovereign power on behalf of the Crown—not as a sovereign in its own right. Following reports of corruption and abuses, the government steadily increased its oversight and supervision of the Company, undercutting its political power. Outside British India, local rulers were treated as vassals of the British crown, and allowed a degree of autonomy. The megacorp focused on making money, while the government focused on governing.

Today, we see the same division of labour. Real-life megacorps like Google, Apple and Twitter delegate the business of government to government. They exercise supreme power over their platforms and products, touching the lives of billions and they lobby governments for tax breaks and other privileges. But they are not totally above the law, and in countries from China to Saudi Arabia to Germany, Big Tech acquiesced to 'requests' from the authorities.

Extrapolating from the present day, what would the megacorps of Singularity Sunrise look like?
On one end of the spectrum, there is Anatol. Run by CEO Augustyn Daniel Antek, it appears to be a 'classic' megacorp, focusing on cutting-edge technologies -- especially the GRIN technologies that will drive the Singularity.

Anatol is a world leader in cybernetics, robotics, information technology, biotechnology, and more. Its signature project is Edenet, a distributed global supercomputer that brings massive parallel computing power to its users. Edenet hosts many apps and platforms, including social media, blogging, markets, and even public governance. Anatol's products are deeply integrated into the life of Western civilization, granting it incredible influence in the halls of power. Anatol doesn't rule the Western world, but it empowers both the rulers and the ruled, giving it outsized influence in all industries.

But Anatol is not interested in mere political power -- not when it can shape the future of mankind.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have China. The Jade Revolution broke the back of the Communist Party, but in truth it was merely a full-circle revolution. The new regime adopted the methods and tools of the old, adapting them for the new century. Among them are its state-owned enterprises.

In Singularity Sunrise, the SOEs of China function as the business arm of Beijing. They create jobs for millions of Chinese citizens, churn out vast quantities of goods and services, and generate huge revenues for the companies and the state. They embed themselves in foreign economies (especially Africa), making themselves indispensable -- and grant the Chinese government levers of influence. And, by special request, they will support the efforts of the Chinese military, national security and intelligence organs.

Including industrial espionage aimed at actors seeking the Singularity.

In the world of Singularity Sunrise, business and politics synergize and collide to shape the future of the world. And yet, the goal is the creation of a machine god that will ultimately eclipse the human race--including the factions that made it possible.

How will this turn out? How will it end? Back Singularity Sunrise to find out!

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