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A Company with No Customers or Employees

August 19th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
    The single greatest achievement of the Autodidactic I project is not in creating the world's first fully autonomous trading firm via Tech Trader.  It's much more subtle than that.  Autodidactic I has become a fully self-sustaining company with no customers, products, or employees.
     Think about that for a moment.  This is a company that will grow and profit year after year completely on its own with no work done anywhere by any human being.  It is not only an autonomous company.  It is completely independent to the world.  It doesn't need to sell anything to anyone.  It doesn't need anyone to work in the company to keep it going.  It neither takes from nor gives to society.  It simply exists, its members benefiting from a perpetual revenue stream that requires absolutely no human input.  It is an Island, an off-the-grid company, dependent on nothing and beholden to no one.
     In the past, people would dream of "living off the fat of the land" or moving to some place isolated from society to be completely free.  That idea is much more metaphorical than literal today due to the near inescapable globalization and the ever-increasing scarcity of land.  You can still buy a piece of land and try to live off only what you grow, but you would pretty much live at the mercy of quite literally the rest of society changing the world around you, always running away rather than truly holding your own.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, industrialists pursued this idea with a different approach by attempting to build utopias out of corporate towns, where the company both funded and owned every property in the city and quite literally the city itself (see what Disney World was meant to be before Walt died).  The problem is that these companies themselves still depended on the rest of the world as well as on their employees.  When demand for Pullman's products dropped in the panic of 1893, for example, both the company and its town fell apart.  When cultures clashed and people disagreed with how Ford saw life should be, Fordlandia crumbled before it even began.  The utopias were an illusion because the prosperity required ideal economic conditions and the cooperation of the employees keeping them running.  Even Disney's modern version of a utopia still required that all inhabitants were always employed and working - how else would the company function?
     Autodidactic I completely uproots these past views of what's possible in creating a company as well as what it means to be completely free and unbounded by the rest of the world.  First, it eliminates the constraints and dependencies of past examples by not having any products or customers to tie it to the outside economy and then by not having any employees on which it relies on to keep it running.  Everything is automated and all revenue is generated from within on the sheer merit of the underlying A.I.  If you've ever read science fiction novels by Asimov or Clarke about cities or societies maintained entirely by fully autonomous A.I. with no human intervention, we very literally have built such an A.I. and it's been running for over 4 years now untouched, perhaps not yet to the scale of managing cities but enough to allow members of the company to focus on anything except the money making aspect.  That aspect at the moment manifests as trading, which in itself embeds a degree of independence.  Revenue is generated whether the economy goes up or down, and unlike traditional customer-serving companies, nothing anyone else does or thinks has any effect.  There is no one whose decision you must win or consent you must earn.  It is a modern day version of farming, in that what we create for ourselves is done completely on our own with no reliance or ask of anyone else (or in this case, anyone at all).  This cascades into a number of other effects.  For one, the company no longer has to be geographically tied to any one location because there are no physical offices, retail spaces, nothing.  All automation is run online and distributed all over the world.  The humans meanwhile can be anywhere at any time and have absolutely no impact on the operations of the company.  The Island has become metaphorical; the City has become metaphorical.  The independence from the rest of the world no longer requires physical isolation.  This is already a step beyond the previously mentioned ideas of the past that would tie one down geographically, but we can actually go further.  Not only does one no longer need to stay in any particular place, one no longer has to do anything at all to create or maintain the structure.  Your freedom is in both where you want to spend your time and what you want to spend your time on.  It goes all the way.  It is everywhere you go and everything you do.  You can continue to live a normal life in a normal city if you chose, or you could be a free spirit and travel the world (and one day the universe).  That's really who this is for - the adventurer who wants to keep exploring, creating, and doing things that have never been done before.  This is the ship with which such a person can set sail.  It's not about changing society or affecting the masses - and by far not about replacing companies in general - but instead about the fact that we have a new kind of company that's never existed before, never could exist before, and it's exciting to imagine what could come of it.
     But let's take this idea even further.  The underlying financing engine of the company is only small piece of the picture.  The other thing to realize is that Autodidactic I is a conglomerate.  This means the company does many things, virtually anything.  This means that rather than have a personal salary and then funnel that into any other projects of interest separately, you can now run any projects you want through the company itself.  It lets you spend and expense pre-tax dollars to any project you want to do, effectively doubling the amount of cash on hand than if you were to take a regular income.  This is an artist and inventor's dream, the ultimate creators' guild.  Virtually anything such a person would want to spend on can be expensed and tax deducted.  For those who love to create and build things, you can now create and build whatever you want out of sheer interest without the pressure of whether your projects make money.  For those who love to learn everything there is to learn, it can now be funded as educational expense relating to the business because, as an inventor or artist, your passions and interests are quite literally your career.  It's even possible to create other companies as subsidiaries of the parent company to fund startup ideas or ventures as an entrepreneur.  It is an environment for pure, unrestrained creativity.  You actually have an incentive to spend more money on ideas, research, development, experiments, creative endeavors - things that would not necessarily lead to immediate economic gain - because any dollar you do not spend ends up coming back out of the company and then taxed to half of what it was.  Think about that for a second as well.  This is a company that is actually incentivized to create for the sake of creation, to do more research and development rather than less, to minimize rather than maximize profit, to put full effort into what its owners are truly passionate about rather than what helps the bottom line.  The kind of projects or ideas someone can now pursue is unprecedented because of how pure the focus can be.  Ideas that are incredible to pursue but lack the business case to ever get funded would thrive here.  This includes things as crazy as building an actual general A.I. like Conatus, which, no matter how intelligent it might become, will always act on its own free will and as a result never be "useful" to anyone or any purpose from the sheer fact you cannot tell it what to do.  Or it could be as simple as creating film, music, and games purely for art's sake without the consideration of money and audience to taint the final outcome - the ability to pursue the creator's vision to the fullest.  Nikola Tesla's final project, the Wardenclyffe Tower, for example, was never completed due to his backers pulling funding.  That would never happen here because you are perpetually self funded and dependent on no one's backing.  More importantly, the environment eliminates social pressures such as specialization or conformity (herd mentality); it encourages someone who embraces it to be curious and involved in anything and everything in the world rather than confine themselves to some particular niche or role.  With that come the ideas that would otherwise never arise without a full view and understanding of the world as a whole.  It is effectively a 21st century version of the Renaissance in corporate form.  This is a company built to do anything by people who do everything.
     But let's again take this idea even further.  Despite its potential, the company can still only benefit its owners and what the group as a whole decides to pursue.  What if rather than own the company directly, each person owned it through another company that that person specifically controls? And from there, that additional node company can not only be owned by that one person but that person's colleagues, friends, family.  That person then controls how that stake is passed down, and whatever projects pursued can be kept in that specific company rather than through the larger parent company.  Now others can share in this lifestyle rather than just the initial owner and even further extend it.  It becomes like a passive income source for a society of creators and experimenters rather than just a select few.  What we've done here is taken the Renaissance company idea to the next level of creating a Renaissance society with no dependence on anyone outside or within.  A community of entrepreneurs, inventors, and artists can now fund their learning, their ambitions, virtually everything creative in their lives through their own node of the larger company.  You can even extend this structure further by creating sub-nodes from your own node; your own company can further be owned by more companies (or have subsidiaries) each with their own distinct rules and organization.  It's like class inheritance and extensibility with law instead of code.  Perhaps most importantly of all, none of the members of this community have to actually be anywhere.  It is a metaphysical village - the modern, decentralized version of a society built up from interconnected groups determined not by geography but by pure discretion of the participants.  The Island has now become a chain of Islands - the Autodidactic Islands.
     For those legally inclined, we've essentially created a new, unorthodox entity structure called an inverted subsidiary structure.  You can also call it an inverted holding company or, more simply, an inverted conglomerate.  The idea is that rather than be owned by the parent company, each "child" company owns a piece of the parent.  In a regular company or subsidiary structure, you are either beholden to the management if you are an employee, the parent/holding company if you are part of a subsidiary, or the shareholders if you divide up power via a corporation; if you kept everything to yourself and something were to happen to you, the company then dies or is arbitrarily transferred to someone who may or may not know how to keep it going.  Here, it is the parent company that is beholden to you with power distributed between everyone as members on equal level.  You don't work for anyone, and everything you create you keep.  No one is anyone else's boss, and no one owns you but you.  The relationship is reversed because you are the one owning the parent company, not the other way around.  For safe measure, the operating agreement even explicitly states that nothing you do or create belongs to the core company unless you explicitly sign it over, which again is a reversal in relationship of most companies to their members.  Lastly, the fact that you own the original company through your own separate company is also very important because it means you can then structure your own company any way you want, independent of the structure to the original parent.  It's like an actual tree branching upwards with independent companies at each node, each node company actually having its own distinct form of governance and ownership, instead of simply being an extension or subset of a larger entity.  It becomes almost like a form of government or republic, where every node entity/company maintains full autonomy and can even further branch itself out with additional company owners which each may have further owners, like a state with cities and a city with neighborhoods.  Special managing members would be voted to represent the overall core company in documents, legal proceedings, etc, but those managing members would have no more power than any other member to actually change the overall structure.  They have to draft any changes and then get the majority approval of all members, just like elected officials in a government or republic.  The power to change the original core structure, admit new members to the original company (which should be as rare as admitting new states; most growth will happen from the nodes, not the core), and other things that affect everyone as a whole is distributed through each member's ability to vote (represented by their share of the parent company), which, if the owner is itself a company, is then further distributed through that owner's owners - just like how states are composed of cities, then people.  The difference here is, of course, there is no physical or geographical city, state, or even country; it blends in behind the scenes to what already exists today, invisibly and seamlessly.  Perhaps most importantly of all, each owner to the original core company is completely self-contained, fully autonomous; each owner owns everything they do, owes nothing to the original company or structure, and can leave at any time from this structure both legally and financially intact, without repercussion, and without approval needed by the core company or anyone else; everything is modular and opt-in, voluntary and without strings.
     One thing that inevitably comes up is the ethics and enforcement, how to make sure something like this gets used for the right purposes and doesn't fall into the wrong hands, how to make sure such an engine really is only used for furthering creativity and arts rather than self indulgence and greed.  The ingenuity behind all this is that it's already taken care of by the law itself.  You can't take advantage of the pre-tax revenue unless you were doing something productive with it; if you used it for self indulgence, the IRS would shut you down for tax evasion.  If you started a node company with no intent of actually running a real business (again, doing something productive) or if you just used it to hide what is otherwise just dabbling in interests and hobbies, the government would again shut you down for fraud.  The law itself forces participants to focus their efforts on real, whole-hearted ideas and projects.  Creators, artists, and inventors are frequently emphasized here because they are quite literally the only kind of people whose personal life and work life are one and the same.  It's like the law was designed for them.  Most everything they'd want to do falls under business, whereas for anyone else merely seeking pleasure, comfort, or self-indulgence, there is practically no place for them here less they be tempted to run afoul of the laws.  In the worst case that someone still slips through, the rest of the members can simply vote out the bad actor by majority in a democratic fashion.  The best part is that because each owner owns the core company through their own node company, each owner lives with their own choices and consequences; any company that does go bad simply pops off the structure thanks to the modularity of each company being completely self-contained financially and legally.  The overall structure is never at the mercy of any one person's actions, and new entity owners can always be formed or voted in to replace those that die or go bad.  It is like a hydra whose heads can regrow if destroyed or a starfish who can regenerate from a single arm.  It is decentralization without the need for code or some complex mathematical formula.  There is no need for central authority, no policing, no need for top-down management.  All of it is accomplished by simply leveraging existing legal structure rather than operating in the gray area or requiring some form of social "disruption," again blending seamlessly into the world that already exists.
     People are constantly trying to build a better world, a step closer to "utopia," but it almost always comes at a cost.  This goes the complete other way.  We're not trying to build any utopia, and we're not trying to save the world.  Rather than create the rising tide to lift all ships, this tries to build the most robust, unsinkable ship possible to traverse any challenge - to see how far we can go rather than just how long we can survive.  Today we hear about ideas for a guaranteed minimum income, democratization of lending and credit, decentralized banks and autonomous organizations, ... these things that redistribute wealth to the rest of the population but often at the expense of someone else and rarely addressing the true underlying problem, that people are still fundamentally trapped pursuing a career they may not be passionate about and living a life they may only accept because they have no other choice, that at the end of the day people are still beholden to the source from which financial capital flows.  These things about minimum wage, breaking down the barriers to access of credit and loans, all just ensure survival, are all just focused on freeing people from the threat of poverty.  They don't do anything about the fact people still have to make every life decision, every career choice, on whether or not they make enough money, whether it'll sell, whether other people will buy.  At best, we make people extremely comfortable, free to live a baseline standard of life, but powerless to pursue their dreams.  Because money is still always involved, and life still revolves around it.  Some of those trying to tackle this problem are so lost in this system they focus their lives on how to make it easier to spend, easier to sell, how to further embed money in every aspect of your life, how to forever run faster but never actually get where you want to go or where you couldn't go before.  Freedom without power.  What good is freedom if you can't actually do anything?
     Sometimes we get so caught up with limitations of life that we are almost conditioned not to think about removing them outright rather than merely working around them.  Companies are thought about so hand in hand with customers, there is even a saying that "without customers there is no company."  We've become so obsessed with "making the world a better place" that we forget to consider what we actually want to do once we get there.  It's almost taboo to suggest a group could simply exist to serve itself rather than others, no matter how sincere.  Even when told the premise that we fund our own endeavors and choose our own projects, people continue to ask what the point of Autodidactic I is if it doesn't actually sell anything or serve any customers.  They ask why we form together, why we pursue the projects we do if there is no demand, no market, no money for it.  It's because we want to.  And we are beholden to no one.
     Perhaps more importantly, this isn't just some idea or concept.  It's already here.  It's real.  And we're about to show the world what we can do.


     A visual presentation can be found on YouTube here: The Autodididactic Islands

     An exact diagram of the legal structure of the concept is presented below.  The humans go at the top, the companies in the middle, and the machines at the bottom.
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