Due to their temporal proximity, it was inevitable that the Occupy Movement would rub up against the Republican primary, particularly in the case of Mitt Romney, who has taken some time off from swimming through massive underground vaults of gold coins to serve as the physical embodiment of everything that the Occupiers are not. Early in his candidacy, a few rabble rousers showed up at an event in Iowa to hoot and howl at everything Romney had to say. They suggested he raise taxes on corporations. He responded by saying that corporations were people. Much yelling ensued.
Romney is of course correct. Not just in the sense that corporations are made up of human beings, but also that corporations enjoy certain rights and privileges previously enjoyed only by the individual. In fact, corporations are probably society's most significant and successful non-religious attempt to create an entirely artificial person. Understandably, this makes certain actual humans uncomfortable. I have a proposal that may assuage those feelings that I will outline for you after the jump.
Isaac Asimov was a Russian science fiction writer who lived from 1920 to 1992. He is regarded by most interested parties as the greatest sci-fi novelist of all time and an abject genius. His work dealt chiefly with artificial intelligence, its possibilities and pitfalls, and the uncertainty the presence of artificial humans engendered in actual humans.
In order to ease the transition from an all-human society to a mostly-human-but-also-a-bunch-of-robots-more-or-less-indistinguishable-from-actual-humans society and to prevent Terminator-style mass robot uprisings, Asimov's robot manufacturers programmed all of their creations to follow the Three Laws of Robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First and Second Laws.
These worked pretty well for a while, but complications arose where bringing harm to one human could prevent harm to many other humans or society at large. To fix these complications, a 0th Law of Robotics was enacted that would supersede all previous laws:
0. A robot may not harm humanity or by inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
Again, since the 0th law supersedes the 1st law, a robot could conceivably injure a human if doing so would benefit humanity overall. In other words, robots were now programmed to potentially kill people. This (as you can imagine) led to additional complications, but on the whole, the situation was probably better than it was before. If we had to have artificial intelligence (and this was accepted as an inevitability in Asimov's fiction, as it probably is in real life), this was the best way to go about it.
In the real world, we create artificial human-like corporations whose rights are more or less indistinguishable from actual humans everyday. Further, these corporate humans are allowed to engage in human-like interactions with one another and with actual humans.
In the case of us actual human beings, there are physical, social, emotional, economical, and legal consequences for behaving in a morally untoward manner to other actual human beings. Artificial corporate humans are, at least relatively speaking, free from these consequences. This is perceived as unfair by many actual humans. Hence the Occupy Movement and Romney's rabble rousers.
BUT. If artificial corporate humans were subject to Asimov's
Three Four Laws of Robotics, that fairness would theoretically be restored. If we are going to create humans, the thinking goes, let's create good humans instead of jerks. Seems simple enough.
This proposal, if adopted, would quickly usher in a new era of corporate citizenship (which many business people believe to be inevitable) by providing extreme consequences for poor moral behavior on the part of artificial corporate humans. In Asimov's world, if a robot violated any of the Laws, it was immediately destroyed. The same would be true of corporations. One strike and you're out.
There are of course myriad problems with the proposal. The political ones notwithstanding, the interaction between the 0th and 1st laws would probably cause the most complications. Human brains are unable to see the future (which would make the impact on humanity of any given decision difficult to pin down with true accuracy) and are clouded by emotion (which would cause us to err on the side of those living actual humans in close proximity to us that would be affected by a given decision rather than the impact on society at large and future actual humans yet to be born). Therefore, we would need to rely on objective, dispassionate formulas and statistical models to evaluate the full societal impact of any given decision, while also taking into account some acceptable profit margin. This would be similar to how Edward Norton's character in Fight Club evaluates whether or not to initiate an automobile recall.
Unfortunately, as these algorithms are refined and their predictive power becomes more and more accurate, the computing resources needed to run them will increase exponentially. Accordingly, we will need to concurrently work on more and more advanced computers to run our more and more advanced algorithms. Eventually, the computers will be so fast that they will be better at creating the algorithms than our own human brains.
We are not so far off from this technology right now. What I am describing is, technically speaking, artificial intelligence. Therefore, if you follow my idea to its full logical conclusion, I am proposing that all corporations be run by super-intelligent robots that will determine the optimal societal impact of all their decisions. These robots will of course themselves be subject to Asimov's Laws so that nothing could ever go wrong.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Wait a second. It's blog posts like these that start the ball rolling towards exactly the type of Terminator-style mass robot uprising that you cautioned about before! What do you think you're doing? In fact, I sort of feel like you may have all along been a robot sent from the future to write blog posts that would begin to sow the ideological seeds for the future robot takeover! You lulled us into a false sense of security with all of your previous blog posts, which were just funny jokes, but lately, your blog has become more and more unhinged, nonsensical, and completely consumed with time travel. This was all a set up. You are clearly a robot."
Now, now, now. Take it easy. Don't be silly. You're getting yourself all worked up. Why don't you drink a warm glass of milk and go watch some videos of cats doing adorable things on YouTube? Yes, that will be nice.