Google and the ‘corporate singularity’

People are angry, angry that some companies aren’t paying their way. Politicians, chameleonic lifeforms that they are, are appearing to rush into action. Companies need to ‘do what’s right’ they say, to ‘share the burden’. In short: the world would be a better place if corporations were nice. Ed Miliband reminds Google that their motto is “don’t be evil” and talks of cultures, of irresponsibility. Commentators talk as if corporations are moral beings.

But they’re not, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

If a company is owned by the people that run it, who live in the same area they work, who live with the people they serve, then they can act for good. It’s their good too. But when companies get to a certain size, lose the founders and or their families from the board, lose connection to their community: then we must understand that they have absolutely no connection to anything but money. The company cuts loose, becomes an entity free of ties—floats above the earth in a fiscal air, as if someone has cut the tether of morals holding the balloon to the ground. It runs by an internal logic: each person and their function operating like cells of an organism to further the propagation of the company’s own selfish gene. Decisions, made by people in theory, are subsumed to the cause. And those genes are fed not by reproduction—but by growth.

These corporate organisms are independent of people, they have no morals as they have no minds. They exist to change, to route around blockages, to kill competing corporations: all in order to increase the differential between the money they are worth and that which other corporations are worth. If consumers change behaviour, the corporation will change tack. If consumers protest they will change—if it suits them. And only until enough people have forgotten. If laws change they will exert pressure, if they can they will break the laws. They have no morals and no loyalties.

Once a company becomes untied from people it passes a sort of corporate singularity, where only its hunger and desire for money matter—what’s ‘right’ doesn’t even connect with it. The company has a kind of intelligence and is capable of reacting, and acting, but it’s not feeling, nor thinking about the consequences of its actions on anything but its bottom line. Like the machines in Terminator it’s in a war for its own survival—they may band together for their own advantage, but it’s giant-spiky capitalist dog eat giant-spiky capitalist dog.

Some fish evolve markings that look like eyes making predators think they’re always aware, and corporations will pretend to have morals if that’s what will get them more growth. They’ll say ‘don’t be evil’, they’ll pretend to be little independent businesses such as pub chains and Tesco’s Harris and Hoole coffee shops—but most of all they’ll do whatever will get the biggest return. They are parasites on wellbeing—corporate growth is meaningless to most people, they only feel the pain as wages are cut, prices are hiked, and control is wrested from them. The only thing that can affect corporations past the singularity are laws that are tight and fiercely protected. Wooly regulations will be cut through, tax laws with complications will have their meanings muddied, anything that is open to challenge will be challenged.

Median wages, are falling—even the Office of National Statistics admit that workers have seen pay drop by 3% annually between 2010 and 2012—while economic growth goes up. That’s because the rich are getting richer, so much richer that the growth in their wealth shows up on countrywide statistics. The rich and their corporations float from country to country, cherry picking the lives they want to lead and the amount they wish to pay for it.

It doesn’t matter if one corporation ‘dies’, it doesn’t change the system—other moral-less singularity-passed entities with expand to fill the space. You can bring down one, but the money will get out—the gene will transfer—the singularity has happened. With the system as it is the battle is lost.

But that doesn’t mean the war isn’t still to be won, like Terminator’s Sarah Connor you can battle the machines: try to do enough damage and hold out for long enough for the system to change. Resisting each immoral act by each corporation, while pushing for real change—tight laws, unilateral laws if need be—is the only way.

Author: Jon Bounds

14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands 2008, subsequently not placed.

His new book about visiting every seaside pier in England and Wales — Pier Review — has been described as “On the Road meets On the Buses”, it’s out now.

Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama to be performed on Twitter and founded the famous blog Birmingham: It’s Not Shit.

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