Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Corporations and Government


In high school I wrote a novel Donovan One about a computer company that grew so large and powerful it became a nation transcending nations, having its own security, health care, education, and housing for employees. Led by Mark Donovan, a genius of a new order due to a genetic accident involving a solar flare shorly after his conception. Donovan discovered a new physics based on a new paradigm that emphasized pattern relationships more than structure relations. He stayed out of the academic community and instead went into business. Using this technology, the international Donovan Enterprises grew so powerful it started leveraging its relationship with nations on its own terms.

When the United States tried to reel Donovan in, it was too late. Always ahead of everyone, by this time, Donovan Security Forces possessed secret weapons far beyond the US military. The novel ends with the entire world coming to Donovan pleading to solve the world's problems. World hunger? Unrest in Africa? Clashes between Isreal and its neighbors? Poverty? Crime? Education? Donovan turns to Security Director Tom Ratajack, "Why are they turning to us? These matters belong to the UN and governments."

Ratajack replies, "You're the one who can."

The novel is not dark, written in the context of Ayn Rand where competence and benevolence are linked. Donovan, the competent hero, prevails over the inept bickering idiots. I was right wing as hell when I wrote that book.

Keep in mind it was 1978 with a seventeen-year-old author influenced by Atlas Shrugged. I fully foresaw the GUI and nested windows with icons, but not the mouse. My foresight navigated icons entirely by keyboard. I still question whether the properly engineered keyboard would surpass the productivity of a mouse.

The relationship between government and corporations forms yet one more challenge we face. Government can relax in a certain respect. There is no Mark Donovan, and corporations can be counted on to operate with complete selfishness and tactics alarming the population to call for governmental oversight. If we let companies run the world, Democracy is doomed.

What the novel does introduce is the notion of a brilliant and benevolent corporation operating with the full systemic awareness of the whole with managerial precision and efficiency, growing to serve millions of employees exponentially and across the globe. At some point, such an entity becomes what we have not seen before.

At its peak, General Motors presented the kindergarten of the concept. Toyota might be first grade, and Microsoft, possessing its own knowledge, might be second grade. I doubt any company will leave elementary school.

The PhD of Mark Donovan's Empire will remain unread fiction, but it points to issues that are anything but fiction.

5 Comments:

Blogger Sirocco said...

It's well established that with an application with a good set of shortcut keys you can navigate through the app mush faster via keyboard than mouse.

It's been said (and I tend to agree) the best form of government is a truly benevolent, enlightened dictatorship. If you have a single, wise intelligent dictator who consistently acts for the benefit of his/her subjects bu isn't constrained by a bureaucracy, this can work quite well.

The problems, of course, are several-fold, of which the following are most significant in my opinion:

1. Ensuring the dictator consistently acts in the best interest of the subjects, even against their own self-interest wen necessary.

2. Ensuring the dictator is intelligent and wise enough to make good decisions.

3. Even if a nation is fortunate enough to have a dictator meet both conditions, how does one ensure this state continues after the dictator's death?

Google might someday reach as far as 6th grade, if the company truly tries to adhere to its stated vision ... but I don't foresee anything like Donovan's empire ever existing, at least not in a benevolent sense. You already have corporations large enough to have face-to-face negotiations with national governments, but the results of those agreements are invariably to the benefit of the corporation. Any benefit elsewhere tends to be accidental, or a secondary side effect.

8/15/2007 8:20 AM  
Anonymous The Navigator said...

Sirocco,

Great comment. The question involves the influence of power and the toll it takes on the person. x4mr escapes the issue by having a "genetic accident" alter a recently fertilized embryo produce a "super man."

Do you think a "normal" individual can have such power and remain benevolent? In centuries past, sheer geography limited the real "penetration" the dictator could have into subjects. He could select anyone and say, "Off with their head!" but how many?

I start to ramble. My point is that I am not clear a working dictatorship is possible. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." I am saying I don't know, not that I know. Most of us would like to think that if we were King of the world, we would be a good king. I can only guess how the moral and ethical darkness would make its assault, but I think a powerful assault would take place.

For sure, such an individual would have to be extraordinary.

x4mr, in 1978 you wrote a novel at 17 about a genetically modified human being who used his genius to create a corporation using physics based on a new relational vs structural paradigm, his own company which grew into an organization transcending nations?

That was before Microsoft.

He creates his own corporate army and as his employees expand in population worldwide loyalties blur and humans turn to him to resolve what world governments cannot?

Fascinating. Why didn't you publish? What a rabbit hole. How did he keep his physics inside the company? How did he release what products? You wrote about a GUI in 1978?!! I find myself having to believe you, because everything says you are not a liar, but if you envisioned a GUI before 1980, that's almost spooky.

Sirocco is obviously very intelligent. You are scary.

I agree with Sirocco about the mouse. It takes a hand off the keyboard and requires distracting motion manipulation that is slower than keystrokes. Consider using Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V versus moving the mouse up to the copy/paste buttons.

The "power users" I know barely use the mouse. With Ctrl and Shift they can just fly.

You continue to amaze, x4mr. Have you written any other novels? So Donovan's computers had a GUI. What else could they do using the new physics?

Oh my God. Did you make them conscious?

8/15/2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger Michael Bryan said...

Matt, you are sitting on a goldmine :) You should self-publish that novel, after a bit of adult re-writing, with Amazon's new self-publishing service. You get free listing on Amazon! Randians everywhere will slurp that tripe up. It's what any self-regarding capitalist would do. Heck, I might even pick up a copy :)

8/15/2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Regarding GUIs, concepts (and even primitive examples) date as far back as the early 1960's at least, including a system with a mouse and windows. The Xerox PARC lab had a sophisticated GUI OS in the mid-70's.

Still, it's unlikely x4mr was aware of any of the early GUIs when he was 17, so yeah, envisioning one was a big leap of imagination.


I don't think absolute power necessarily corrupts absolutely, but history seems to show that's the way to bet sometimes. Still, I think examples of benevolent dictatorships do exist, but as a sustainable system I don't think it's viable.

8/16/2007 8:11 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Oh, Michael, you flatter me, but it feels good so continue whenever you like.

To produce Donovan One today would be a complete re-write virtually from scratch, and approaching 50, my take would produce a very different (hopefully better) product, which would shift dramatically from technical fascination to political sophistication and of course, multiple layers and the use of symbolism and metaphor.

Sirocco is right. I know about Xerox park and GUI/mouse work in the 60s now, but back in 78 I ran track, fantasized about cheerleaders, studied calculus, and bussed tables to save up for college. I knew nothing about Xerox park.

My vision of a graphical computer screen one navigated as if through space with the ability to open nested and multiple screens within screens was entirely original, and my vision involved navigation keys on the keyboard. No mouse.

Sirocco's remark on Google is intriguing. That company is becoming powerful indeed, led by sharp as hell new thinkers outside of the Cheney club, and making a fortune using technology the evil don't quite get.

Sixth grade is as good a guess as I could make.

Dammit, Michael, now you've got me thinking about Donovan in the current context. The corporate/government question has grown more compelling and the explosion of the Internet makes the equation even more fascinating.

That could make a terrific story. For crying out loud, I am already swamped!

8/16/2007 10:33 AM  

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