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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 project is not its endeavor in autonomous trading.  It's much more subtle than that.  Autodidactic itself has become a self-sustaining and autonomous company with no customers, products, or employees.
     Think about that for a moment.  This is a company that will grow and generate revenue year after year completely on its own with no work done anywhere by any human being.  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 fully automated 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 closest thing to a success (and closest in spirit to what we later are trying to do here) may be Oppenheimer's Los Alamos, which doubled as both a vibrant community of scientists and a place with unlimited resources dedicated to nuclear research, but that ultimately only existed for the war.  The utopias were an illusion because the prosperity required ideal (or in the case of WW2, need-driven) conditions and the cooperation of the employees keeping them running.
     Autodidactic 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 AI.  If you've ever read science fiction novels by Asimov or Clarke about cities or societies maintained entirely by fully autonomous AI with no human intervention, the concept is similar here in that 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.  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 around the world.  The humans meanwhile can be anywhere at any time and have absolutely no impact on the operations of the company.  The Island and City have 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 choose, or you can 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 a small piece of the picture.  The other thing to realize is that Autodidactic 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.  It's like the law was designed for them.  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., 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 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? And from there, that additional node company can not only be owned by that one person but that person's colleagues, friends, etc.  Now others can share in this lifestyle rather than just the initial owners and each further extend it independently.  It becomes like a passive income source for a network of creators and experimenters.  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.  Each member can then extend this structure further by creating sub-nodes from an existing 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.  On top of that, this inverted subsidiary structure self-solves for ethics, as the actions of any one node will only harm that individual node; at worst, a bad actor's company dissolves and pops off the structure but with no harm to anyone else.  It integrates with society seamlessly and is playing by the existing rules rather than operating outside or in the gray.  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.
     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 a rising tide to lift all ships, this tries to build the most robust, unsinkable ship possible to traverse any obstacle, to see how far we can go rather than just how long we can survive.  Today we often hear about ideas like guaranteed minimum income, democratization of lending and credit, decentralized banks and autonomous organizations, ... these things that merely redistribute wealth from one group to another and only emphasize survival, are 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, they make people extremely comfortable, free to live a baseline standard of life, but no more capable 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 instead 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, 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 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.

     Attached below is a customized operating agreement we've drafted to implement the ideas above.  We also include a zip with some other legal docs / contracts as templates in case it's useful for companies doing similar activities (IP, licensing, outsourcing, sponsoring).  Something unique to observe about our operating agreement is that it is fully democratic.  Everything is decided by a majority of *all* members instead of a majority of *managing* members only.  Managing members are actually nothing more than caretakers elected by the members to file papers and maintain the company - literally only managing.  There's also a special section 2.4b that allows elimination of any non-voting members without paying them their capital account, which is unusual but relevant to us to discourage members from simply sitting on their equity and waiting to get bought out.
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