A friend sent me this, calling it a "curious combination of systems theory
and sociology and corporate life." Indeed.
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Invitation to an Interdisciplinary Internet Colloquium
on Corporate Being and Life on Earth
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BIG BODY HEURISTICS
Are Corporate Bodies Really Alive?
(Are they now Earth's dominant species?)
Living System Perspectives
on Corporate Evolution, Anatomy
and Eco-Social Pathologies
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"Internet Colloquium" seems to means some kind of glorified chat. The
convokers clearly feel they've hitched their wagging tail to the right
meme. A successor to social darwinism? (See a couple of quotes from the web
site, below.) If one wanted to register a dissenting view, the web page has
a link for becoming a participant.
Here's the reply I sent to my friend:
It is a seductive analogy, simple, persuasive -- and quite wrong.
In a multicellular organism, such as a human, the organs of perception, the
nervous system, and effectors (muscles, etc.) are made up of cells. In a
corporation, there are no corporate organs of perception and there are no
corporate effectors, other than those of human beings filling particular
roles that are defined socially and economically, not biologically. The
question whether there is a corporate nervous system is muddied by the
prevalent misuse of computer metaphors for a very poorly understood human
nervous system. Consider this: whatever a particular nerve cell is doing,
from the cell's point of view it is not "seeing" some pixel in a visual
image, or "hearing" the presence of energy at some point in the auditory
spectrum, or "feeling" a pressure, "tasting" presence of salt, etc. For the
cell, these perceptions simply do not exist, however much they may matter
to the human being in whose corporate (bodily) structure we locate and (let
us say) observe this cell in action. Whatever the cell's universe may
be--nutrients and other chemical concentrations, electrical potentials,
etc.--it is certainly of an entirely different order from the perceptual
universe of a human being.
If we humans are participating in some suprahuman corporate entity, it
won't look like a corporation. It is doubtful we will even be able to
notice it, any more than a cell in your body is capable of noticing that it
is part of your body. This is necessarily so. If a cell in your body
controlled the same perceptions as you, it would come in conflict with you
whenever it wanted one state of affairs and you wanted another, which would
frequently happen. But the conditions that cells want are states of
cellular affairs, which are of a completely different sort from human
affairs. Just so, if humans were like cells, then we necessarily could
never control or even perceive the universe in which a supraorganic
corporate body lives, because if we did we would repeatedly and frequently
come in conflict with that higher-order life-form of which we were part. Is
this what we see? No. Any appearance of conflict with a corporation is in
fact a conflict with one or more other human beings participating in
socially and economically defined roles.
Here are two quotes from the web page for this "internet colloquium".
REGARDING BIG BODIES
Although immense corporate bodies now wield definitive influence
over our economy, politics, educational agenda and popular
consciousness, curiously little attention has been paid to their
evolution, common attributes or basic nature.
Many decades ago, large organizations were recognized as true
"living systems." That is, they behave purposefully, cohere over
time, adapt to their environment, ingest/process/excrete
substances, display homeostatic reflexes, maintain an internal
sense of self/identity, respond (aggressively/ defensively) to
perceived threats, learn, grow, multiply, age, die, etc.
Astoundingly, the full implications of this insight - that our species
shares the biosphere with an exponentially larger, more powerful
and rapidly evolving life form that may not necessarily share our
values or aspirations - have never been adequately explored. For
those who sense these bodies� scale and activities now pose a
clear and present danger to our cultures, environment or
evolutionary future, let that exploration begin here...
"Corporate beings have evolved over a considerable history and
doubtless they are evolving even now, as all living species do.
However, until we grasp their present strategies for survival and
proliferation, we will be utterly unable to predict their future - much
less combat their dominance."