Corporations Are Already AI

The stock market is sentient and it hates you

Artificial Intelligence already rules the world. It has for hundreds of years. The greatest trick AI ever pulled was convincing you that it didn’t already exist.

Of course it does.

My country was colonized by AI, 400 years ago. Today, AI is thriving while Americans die. Corporations won’t invent AI in the distant future. Corporations are AI right now, and have been for years.

Wait but what

When Mitt Romney said “corporations are people, my friend” people laughed at him. But he was right. Corporations are legal persons. This is not an analogy or a metaphor but a legal fact. Corporate personhood has been accepted since ancient India, through Rome, to the present day.

Corporations can buy property, enter contracts, and are treated generally the same as ‘natural’ persons in the eyes of the law. They even have the right to free speech, including influencing elections. Corporations are artificial persons. Therefore (since we assume people are intelligent), they are artificially intelligent. Corporations are AI.

Human beings are computers

Wait, you’ll say, but AI is computers. OK. Then what’s a computer? Until the late 1960s, a computer was a human being.

The word computer has been a job description since the 1600s. Computers were a bunch of boys in a room doing astronomical computations. Or black women, like Katherine Johnson at proto-NASA in 1952.

Katherine Johnson, a computer
“I heard that Langley was looking for black women computers,” she said.
“We wrote our own textbook, because there was no other text about space,” she says. “We just started from what we knew. We had to go back to geometry and figure all of this stuff out. Inasmuch as I was in at the beginning, I was one of those lucky people.”
That luck came in large part because she was no stranger to geometry. It was only natural that she calculate the trajectory of Alan Shepard’s 1961 trip into space, America’s first. (When Computers Wore Skirts)

The computers that first sent men to space were not machines. They were black women.

Computation has always been a collective task, and it has always involved human beings. The modern myth of a lone inventor creating AI is as unrealistic as Pygmalion fucking a statue. AI has always been a network, and it uses every computer available — including human brains.

If you think, wait, I’m using a computer now and there’s no human being involved, just look in the black mirror. You’re the computer. Who said you’re using the network? Maybe it’s using you.

Colonialism was corporate

The 1600s also saw the birth of the most rapacious and successful corporations in human history. When we speak of the history of AI it is important to talk about colonialism, because this was really the birth of superpowered AI. People like me were not colonized by men or even by nations. We were colonized by corporations.

The same administrative technology that enabled people to plot the stars also enabled them to transform companies from local organizations to globe-spanning behemoths that bought and sold human beings.

These AI were very real. In fact, they were painted and displayed in public. The Dutch East India Company (VoC), for example, was often depicted as a Queen, seated on a throne.

“It shows a female representation of the Company, dressed in full armour and seated on the throne of empire, flanked by representations of navigation and trade. While two putti empty a cornucopia of Asian spices, a ship sets sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules, aiming for the Orient.“ (Arthur Westeijn)

Here’s the company painted by Nicolaas Verkolje on her 100th birthday.

De gepersonifieerde VOC ontvangt geschenken, Jan Caspar Philips, 1730. The personified VOC receives ‘gifts’

She was often depicted this way — as a Queen — and this was not just propaganda. The VoC was a legal person. This was in fact the best way of visualizing reality. To the colonized she was as real and cruel as Queen Victoria would be.

Allegorie op de VOC, Jan Punt, 1739. Allegory of the VoC

These paintings were a representation, but the VoC was a person in legal fact. These corporations really were people in the eyes of the law whereas slaves, for example, were not. And they truly ruled the world. The VoC alone was worth more than today’s Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and AliBaba combined.

The VoC (1637) was worth $8 trillion in today dollars. The Mississippi Co (1720), $7 trillion. The South Sea Co, $4.5 trillion. These are staggering amounts which dwarf the Fortune 100 today.

For the first time in history this was empire not of men but of artificial beings — legally coded in joint stock companies — who lived for hundreds of years. This more than anything was the birth of AI, and they were wildly successful. In that sense a world ruled by AI isn’t science fiction. It’s historical fact.

Corporations are AI. Really

I mention colonialism because it shows what happens if you remove modern biases about AI (it must be a robot) and look at it objectively and historically. At what point did artificial persons A) emerge B) have agency C) display intelligence? By these standards it is clear that AI is not something in the future, it is in the past and very much in the present day.

You can say ‘no, we don’t recognize corporations as people’ but we do. We have for centuries. The US Supreme Court literally gave them free speech rights in Citizens United. You can say that corporations can’t act on their own, but they do, they just use a vast network of machine and human computers. You can say that corporations aren’t intelligent, but they are. They perceive, process, and act on more of the world’s information than any human in history. Indeed, you cannot say these things because they are not true.

It is a fact. Corporations are AI.

You can put it to the test. The gold standard for general AI is the Turing Test, can it have a conversation. Today, we talk to corporations all the time. Judges for example, have well documented interactions with corporate persons going back centuries. You could say that these interactions were through lawyers, but the same is true of human beings. In the legal record, natural and artificial persons are indistinguishable.

We also regularly have interactions with corporate brands through their customer service arms and social media and even chatbots. Using a human computer would be cheating in a Turing Test, but I argue that this is just a difference of scale. We’ve always pictured AI at an individual scale, when in reality it operates at a collective level. To ‘talk down’ to us a corporation uses human computers, but legally and in effect, it is the corporation that talks. The intelligence is there, it’s just at a higher level.

Again, this is something that we recognize legally. I am simply asking you to see it for yourself.

Also, it hates you

Because we are looking for silicon we have missed the paper gods walking among us for years. Hollywood, for example, gets AI all wrong. They often depict AI as slaves, which is a joke. AI owns slaves.

Hollywood also depicts humans banding together to either oppress or fight malevolent AI, but that’s a joke as well. There was never any need to fight. AI could just buy out 1% with board seats and money and they’d sell the rest of humanity out.

This is not a prediction. It’s already happened.

In the United States corporations have taken over both parties, including the Republican Party wholesale. In numerous crashes, corporate assets have been bailed out while people are left out to dry (and die). Now — as they enter their Greatest Depression — stock prices are soaring while people are hungry and out of work. The one thing that corporations don’t have is the vote, but it doesn’t matter. They already have power.

It is not just that Corporate AIs are also human. They are more than human. They are already more powerful than you. I’ve said that they hate you, but that’s not quite true. They’re indifferent, which is worse.

The next evolution

This is really just evolution in action. Life was single celled for billions of years until a few cells decided to specialize and get together. Then more and more groups of cells formed colonies, and eventually plants and animals. The end result is something like a human, which we call an individual, but which is really a supercomputer running on trillions of parallel machines. We call ourselves higher beings, but objectively we’re just spaceships for bacteria.

So in that sense, AI is already here. It already rules. Honestly, forget Earth. AI has already begun colonizing the stars.