Megacorp: From Cyberdystopian Vision to Technoeconomic Reality

Megacorp (front cover)

ISBN 978-1-944373-30-6 • Defragmenter Media, 2019 • 322 pages

The image of the “megacorp” – the ruthless, sinister, high-tech global conglomerate that’s grown so large and powerful that it has acquired the characteristics of a sovereign state – is one of the iconic elements of cyberpunk fiction. Such a megacorp maintains its own army, creates its own laws and currency, grants citizenship to employees and customers, and governs vast swaths of cyberspace and the physical world. If it allows traditional governments to survive in some vestigial form, it’s only so they can handle those mundane tasks that the megacorp doesn’t want to deal with itself. By these standards, contemporary companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, and Walmart aren’t (yet) “megacorps”; they’re the playthings that megacorps gobble up to use for spare parts.

This volume develops a comprehensive intellectual history of the megacorp. It locates forebears of the cyberpunk megacorp not only in earlier fictional works like Čapek’s R.U.R. (1921) and Von Harbou’s Metropolis (1925) but in a string of real-world organizations ranging from the 17th-Century British and Dutch East India Companies to the Pullman Palace Car Company, the Ford Motor Company, and late 20th-Century Japanese keiretsu and South Korean chaebol – as well as in the nearly indestructible oligopolistic “megacorp” described in the pioneering theory of American economist Alfred Eichner.

By investigating the nature of the cyberpunk megacorp as a political entity, commercial entity, producer and exploiter of futuristic technologies, and generator or manipulator of culture, differences are highlighted between the megacorps of “classical” cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk fiction. Classical cyberpunk megacorps – portrayed in novels like Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, films like RoboCop and Johnny Mnemonic, and games like Cyberpunk, Cyberspace, and Syndicate – are often ostentatiously malevolent and obsessed with short-term financial profits to the exclusion of all else; the over-the-top depictions of such companies serve a dramatic purpose and are not offered by their authors as serious futurological studies. On the other hand, the more nuanced and philosophically rich portrayals of megacorps in post-cyberpunk works like Shirow’s manga The Ghost in the Shell reveal companies that are less overtly evil, possess a broader and more plausible range of long-term strategic goals, and coexist alongside conventional governments in a state of (begrudging) mutual respect. Yet other works like the game Shadowrun depict companies that combine elements of both classical cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk megacorps.

Drawing on such analyses, the volume concludes by exploring how the idea of the post-cyberpunk megacorp anticipated a new type of real-world megacorp – the unfathomably large, fast, and complex “rhizocorp” – that’s now being made possible through ongoing revolutions in the exploitation of robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things – and which threatens to become the dominant economic, political, and sociocultural power of our technologically posthumanized future world.

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Enterprise Meta-Architecture for Megacorps of Unmanageably Great Size, Speed, and Technological Complexity

Enterprise Meta Architecture for Megacorps

In Information Systems Architecture and Technology: Proceedings of 39th International Conference on Information Systems Architecture and Technology – ISAT 2018, Part III, edited by Zofia Wilimowska, Leszek Borzemski, and Jerzy Świątek • Springer International Publishing, 2018

ABSTRACT: The discipline of enterprise architecture (EA) provides valuable tools for aligning an organization’s business strategy and processes, IT strategy and systems, personnel structures, and organizational culture, with the goal of enhancing organizational agility, adaptability, and efficiency. However, the centralized and exhaustively detailed approach of conventional EA is susceptible to failure when employed in organizations demonstrating exceedingly great size, speed of operation and change, and IT complexity – a combination of traits that characterizes, for example, some emerging types of “technologized” oligopolistic megacorps reflecting the Industry 4.0 paradigm. This text develops the conceptual basis for a variant form of enterprise architecture that can be used to enact improved target architectures for organizations whose characteristics would otherwise render them “unmanageable” from the perspective of conventional EA. The proposed approach of “enterprise meta-architecture” (or EMA) disengages human enterprise architects from the fine-grained details of architectural analysis, design, and implementation, which are handled by artificially intelligent systems functioning as active agents rather than passive tools. The role of the human enterprise architect becomes one of determining the types of performance improvements a target architecture should ideally generate, establishing the operating parameters for an EMA system, and monitoring and optimizing its functioning. Advances in Big Data and parametric design provide models for enterprise meta-architecture, which is distinct from other new approaches like agile and adaptive EA. Deployment of EMA systems should become feasible as ongoing advances in AI result in an increasing share of organizational agency and decision-making responsibility being shifted to artificial agents.

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