|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2008-06-16 15:12:00
|Current music:||"Hearts and Bones" - Paul Simon|
On Machines, Money and Ethics.
machine · n.
1 an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task. Ø technical any device that transmits a force or directs its application.
2 an efficient and well-organized group of powerful people: the party machine.
3 a person who acts with the mechanical efficiency of a machine.
· v. make or operate on with a machine. Ø Brit. sew or make with a sewing machine.
– ORIGIN C16: from Fr., via L. from Doric Gk makhana (Gk mUkhanU, from mUkhos ‘contrivance’).
I've been reading a bit lately about the way that various companies have been behaving badly, and I've been trying to figure out why we're all so shocked each time it happens. I think it's because we've bought the advertising.
At the heart of it, a company, or an incorporated body such as a corporation, is a machine. It's a machine for making money for their shareholders. This is their primary purpose (particularly under US law). It isn't a machine for providing jobs. It isn't a machine for creating things. It isn't a machine for saving the world. No, it has one purpose: to make the shareholders money. This will be done in a variety of ways, but in all cases, the aim is to create the largest possible amount of money for the shareholders with the least possible money spent (efficiency).
The trick, therefore, is to make it more efficient for the machine to be used in an ethical manner than it is to be used in an unethical manner. This is what law, regulation, and other such contrivances are for. We cannot rely on the machine itself to behave in an ethical manner, because the machine is not bound by considerations of ethics. A computer can't make a judgement about what it's used to do; a hammer doesn't ask whether it's right to hit the nail. The machine doesn't care. The machine can't care. Even if people are components of the machine (as in a corporate environment) they are not allowed to let their emotional reactions affect the functioning of the machine.
Of course, the companies, as entities, are aware of the effect of people realising this in a wide-spread fashion. It would impact on their ability to make money for their shareholders. So the machines go to a lot of trouble to ensure we don't think of them as machines. They go to great lengths to create pseudo-human, or mega-human identities for themselves. They put things like "caring for customers" and "serving the community" in their mission statements, put out statements about their core values full of buzzwords and touchy-feely terms, make ostentatious donations to good causes, and do their best to make us think they're actually more interested in our personalities than our dollars.
But each time we see something like this, we need to be asking ourselves: how does this help them make more money? Never forget, the number one purpose of all corporate machines is to make money. It's the one thing which won't be put on the mission statements, or added into comments about core values, or even said out loud.
We don't expect our computers, televisions, toasters or refrigerators to care for us. They're machines.
We can't expect corporations to care for us as consumers, or as employees. They're machines too.