v.2. Linked to from: #E8.

algorithms of cupidity

Algorithms describe a way of doing something. Some are simple —an algorithm to boil an egg or to build a spaceship for instance; while others are recursive —at some point in their execution invoking themselves. Recursive algorithms are odd in that while some produce results that are predictable —the set of cardinal numbers for instance— others may produce quite unexpected results —the fractal patterns of the Mandelbrot set; the artificial intelligence that builds machines that learn on their own — or the laws that gave birth to limited companies.

Limited companies variously 'protect' the money shareholders invest in them; it seems reasonable therefore that company directors should invest it prudently, and maximize profit. This is not the only duty of trust directors have of course, but it is the one, assuming they act reasonably in other matters, that carries the greatest risk to them personally. Unsurprisingly therefore, it has become their 'prime directive'.

The financial fiduciary duty that companies have through their directors embodies cupidity as a recursive algorithm. Despite being elementary this has hog-tied the wider aspirations of the societies on which we must depend, and generated the increasingly complex economic structures that govern them. Feeding on itself ceaselessly from sometime in the last 150 to 400 years, it has been driving our evolution as individuals, societies, and as elements of a biosphere that we imagine more and more to be something we own.

The algorithms of cupidity that we have developed are essentially elementary AI's; giving rise to artificial beings, limited companies of legal personhood, serviced by people but distinct from us most importantly in that they are incapable of pity. We ourselves have little pity for other forms of life; we do what we do to them to profit ourselves; our artificial beings do the same to us.

an all-consuming, controlling passion for wealth.

edit: 6 Jan 2024.

Considering the importance of limited companies - something that can hardly be overstated - I was surprised, at the time of writing, to find no information online regarding their history except for a date, 1855, given by Merriam-Webster (an Encyclopaedia Britannica company) as that of the first known use of the term limited company. Including that date in my search however, explained everything.

see e.g: Understanding a company director's fiduciary duties and the consequences of failing these. by Begbies Traynor Group plc (insolvency practitioners and forensic accountants).


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