Corporate Podpeople

One of the most mind-bending scenes in Accelerando is when the protagonists are beset by rogue corporations.

Yes, I mean the actual corporation as an independent identity. Not just a bit of legalese declaring it so, but the actual-factual deal. As real as you and me and Pinnochio.

I think there’s some evidence for this – that corporations 1 have a discrete identity from the parts that constitute it… and that this overarching identity affects and shapes those who are in it.

The analogy of the human body works pretty well. Individual cells have their own “agenda”, but that doesn’t matter to the organism as a whole. And the human body isn’t designed to all work properly – about half of your body mass is from “non-human” organisms.

Those “non-human” (mostly bacteria) cells have their own goals… but they work in concert with the rest of the human organism.

I’ve seen several people move into management in the same company – and I’ve seen them become assimilated. People who used to mock corporatespeak now utter buzzwords with complete sincerity. Concern for doing the job correctly has morphed into a concern for metrics – whether or not the metrics actually measure the job in question. The people change, in fundamental and disturbing ways.

It’s possible to explain this by looking at individual incentives. Corporatespeak is rewarded by higher-ups, and so new managers discard their principles in a trade for advancement.

But honestly, I’d rather believe they were assimilated into the corporate group mind, and are now being controlled as some kind of pod people.

That’s so much more optimistic.

[1] Although I’m concentrating on corporations, this applies to all organizations.

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