January 12, 2015
Corporations keep getting bigger. Some have their own fleets of aircraft, ships, and sometimes even submarines.
At the same time, the more problematic countries – in terms of spawning terrorism – are the ones that are shrinking, both in population and GDP. Syria is smaller now. Afghanistan and Iraq are smaller.
At some point I believe it is inevitable that a corporation will go to war with a small, terror-spawning country.
It isn’t legal, you say? Bah. A big corporation can do almost anything it wants by creating shell companies in other countries, using proxies, doing things in secret, bribing governments, and that sort of thing. The law won’t stop any of this. Nor will any government necessarily want to stop it, assuming the corporation is fighting a terrorist state or group.
You might think a corporation would not put the rest of its employees and their families in jeopardy across the globe by declaring war against some group of terrorists, pirates, or corrupt small government. But corporations are sneaky. You wouldn’t necessarily know who the parent company is or the name of even one employee.
That’s the secret sauce for fighting terror. If a big nation attacks terrorists, it can put the homeland at risk. And that means you have to do a measured response. Doing otherwise pisses off even your allies. Winning against terror by being the bigger evil can backfire in the long run.
Sooner or later the bad guys will get better weapons, thanks to technology and miniaturization. If all we do is keep wounding terrorists at the same time we give them our home address, we don’t have winning plan.
This is where a private company comes in. Imagine a secret corporation formed by one hundred founders, each from a different country, and each with a secret identity. Now imagine them with a hundred billion dollars, the best technology money can buy, no voters to placate, no international blow-back risk, and no home base to defend. It’s a virtual corporation, with unlabeled and disguised assets around the globe. The corporation takes its strategy from the terrorists themselves. You can’t kill who you can’t find.
Now let’s consider the future of war robots. My guess is that we could build a “robot attack swarm” with today’s technology. Imagine: A drone spots some bad guys in ISIS territory and an overwhelming mass of small but deadly robots swarm in that direction, by ground and air, and just shoot everything that registers a human heat signature. The entity controlling the robots takes no casualties, and no one is sure of the identity or nationality of the people managing the robots.
What I am describing is all criminal, of course, much the way piracy on the open seas is illegal. Keep in mind that the reason piracy is such a problem is that it isn’t anyone’s specific job to stop it. So imagine a private corporation going to war with the enemies of your country. Would you reelect a politician that used your tax money to stop the enemy of your enemy?
As long as the hypothetical secret corporation is somewhat transparent about its intent to kill bad guys, and it reported its progress in a credible way, I think the democratic governments of the world would have minimal voter support to stop it. And the dictator countries would just enjoy watching the show.
The big risk, obviously, is that no matter who starts the secret corporation it will be seen as an American invention, or it will involve American-made technology, or imagined American funding, so there will still be blow-back. But I think the hypothetical corporation could do enough corporate “marketing” to sell itself as a legitimate independent force over time. That’s what corporations do. I don’t own six Apple devices because I want to. I own them because Apple made me buy them. Corporations do marketing better than democratic governments.
If you think corporations will never go to war with terrorist countries, I would argue that perhaps it has already happened with Sony and North Korea. We don’t know the details, and probably never will, but at the very least you can see it might have happened. That’s what gave me the idea for this post.
In my opinion, there is a 100% chance you will see a private corporation go to war with a small country, and win, within twenty years.
Obviously there’s a risk to the world when a private company builds its own robot army and learns how to use it. But that sort of army wouldn’t threaten a traditional government that has air superiority and more. At least not right away. I will concede there is a big risk here. But our current plan of wounding our enemies and giving them our home address at the same time seems risky too.
On a related note, when terrorists killed French newspaper folks it changed the game. We media professionals just went from attempting to be objective to, well, fuck it. Most of us won’t admit it, but now it’s personal. The only thing keeping ISIS-held territory from turning into a giant fireball is that American citizens haven’t demanded it of their government. If you believe the media drives public opinion, and it probably does, ISIS has a new and bigger problem now. Goodbye measured response. I can’t speak for anyone else in the media, but I’m all in now.
But I won’t be getting humorous about the founder of Islam because I would see that as an insult to Muslims who were minding their own business. I’m not a believer, but I’ve evolved to be pro-religion because I observe religion to be a functional interface to a reality our brains aren’t designed to understand.
Here’s a link to the paperback of How to Fail Almost Everything And Still Win Big
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
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