Matrix Realities: Corporations for Corporations Sake

Matrix Realities: Corporations for Corporations Sake

The premise of the popular Matrix movies is that the humans have generated robots that have become so sophisticated that instead of simply serving the needs of humans, they reverse the relationship.  Humans become subservient to the robots.  This requires, of course, that the robots grow intelligence.  Anyone who has worked much in artificial intelligence knows we have quite a ways to go before this could be anymore than science fiction.

Robots aren’t the only thing we’ve created that’s “human-like” though.  Corporations are, for most purposes, treated like individuals by our legal system.  Think about it, they pay taxes, they own things, they can make donations to political candidates, they donate money to charities, they “speak” to the press, they pay rent, they and be sued, etc…  Why do we assume that corporations will always be there to provide us jobs, pay, and products that are intended to make our lives better?  This system has worked well for hundreds of years (the first corporations date back to the 1600s), but, particularly in the USA, several of the assumptions that made the corporate model work are changing:

  1. The main right that we have as humans that the corporations lack is the right to vote.  This has always meant that the government could protect us from corporations that would do things that are harmful to humans.  For example, corporations aren’t allowed to sell drugs because eventhough we might buy them, it would actually be worse for us.  Similarly prescription drugs must be tested,  restaurants go through health inspections, companies can’t pollute as much as they want, etc…  Today though, we live in a world where votes don’t matter.  Money matters.  A $3,000 donation to a candidate is (nearly) infinitely more likely to impact an election than a vote.  This means that the power has shifted to entities with money; corporations may not have the right to vote, but they certainly have money.
  2. Televison has advanced to the point that the average American male watches 29 hours of TV per week and the average female watches 34 hours per week.  This means that for 30 or so hours per week, corporations get a chance to “sell” you on their products.  They bait you with a decent plot line, but it’s an inescapable fact that the purpose of TV is to sell you something.  This gives the corporations entirely too much opportunity to influence your buying decisions and you entirely too little time to separate what YOU want from what they want you to want.  This can (does?  will?) allow the corporations to get you to allocate the capital that you make from them inefficiently.
Let’s look at the math simply.  18 hours per day means 126 hours per week.  50 hours per week working and another 30 watching TV means that you spend over 2/3 of your time either working for a corporation or being persuaded to buy something from one (or perform some other action on behalf of one).  This means that based on the hours of the day, you no longer control your own life.  The corporations are using you to make themselves more profitable.  To make more money.  They’ll do that even if it doesn’t benefit you.  They aren’t focused on making products and services that make your life better, they’re focused on making ones that they can SELL.  Think about tobacco companies or fast food chains.

I’m not calling it the Matrix yet, but I am noticing that the corporations are considerably more powerful than they used to be and if they continue to have their fingers deep within government there’s no reason to believe that progression won’t continue.  This is the blog post version of a larger thesis obviously, but I would love to hear thoughts…