Home Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

 

The Sci-Fi Movies Were Right: the monster android is here

Remember all those science fiction stories and movies ranging from Isaac Asimov's heyday forward, about autonomous, amoral androids/robots/computers that each developed a will of its own and set about doing evil things until a hero (or just a lowly bounty hunter) came to the rescue by destroying the noxious piece of technology?  Did we really think that our nemesis would be a computer like HAL, with mysteriously malign intent?  And did we really expect these inventions to develop true consciousness?

These androids, part of a longer monster tradition in fiction and legend, were scary because they operated according to a set of programmed behaviors, whether by humans or nature, that did not allow for individual judgment and above all anything resembling a conscience.  They could not be persuaded to change a course of action; they could only be contained or destroyed.

We now have a problem that is the same for practical purposes today, although it doesn't make for light escapist fiction.  We now have the large, influential corporation, which operates very much these androids (or groups of androids) do.  They also have a real-life analogy, the world of insects.  Some insects are social; some have mutually beneficial relationships with plants.  But their behavior is typically oriented strongly toward individual survival, and they probably never engage in good Samaritan behavior or advocate enlightened social change.  Similarly, the behavior of corporations is geared toward survival, as measured by the "bottom line," i.e., a particular number near the bottom of a financial statement.  So you have the strange situation of individual people working to make their quality of life worse by changing the law to allow environmental pollution, more expensive and less effective healthcare, worse working conditions and runaway wars to progress.  In fact, we are paying lavish amounts of taxes to make this happen.

In the absence of business regulations reining in antisocial behavior such as environmental pollution, exposure of employees to dangerous working conditions or selling unsafe and/or ineffective products to the public, work organizations are sometimes forced to make the invidious choice of doing wrong or going out of business.  That's where the government's role would come in if it were really representing the individual living and breathing citizens of the USA that the framers of the Constitution no doubt had in mind.  The best thing our government can do to build national wealth is to crack down on businesses that hurt people by lying to, stealing from and killing them. 

Fortunately, we don't have to be technical wizards to put this being back in science fiction where it belongs.  There are legal remedies, and they will have to be instituted by Congress since the other two branches of government are autonomous.

REFERENCES

National Public Radio (2011) http://www.npr.org/2011/10/24/141663195/what-is-the-basis-for-corporate-personhood

The Story of Stuff Project (2012) The story of Citizens United vs. FEC http://www.youtube.com/user/storyofstuffproject?feature=watch#p/u/1/k5kHACjrdEY

Copyright © 2011 by Dorothy E. Pugh.  All rights reserved. 

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