Trope-a-Day: Mega Corp

Mega Corp: Oh, quite a few.  (Well, bearing in mind the cultural, demographic, and technological differences that mean that while an Earthly multinational might hit millions of employees, its Imperial counterpart probably has a couple of dozen executives, a large computronium core, and millions of jobs being done by subcontractors, sub-sub-contractors, etc., or “on-bounty”.)

The canonical list in the Empire and nearby, the “Big 26” starcorporations, are usually given as:

All Good Things, ICC – retailing

Artifice Armaments, ICC – firearms, heavy weapons, military vehicles, and defense technologies

Atalant Materials, ICC – mining, refining, and nanoslurry production

Biogenesis Technologies, ICC – neogenic organisms, biotech products and bioshells

Biolith Chemical Products, ICC – bactries and organochemicals

Bright Shadow, ICC – computers (including expert systems and thinkers), telecommunications equipment, and infotech

Cognitech, ICC – cognitive science, psychedesign, nootropics, and sophotechnology

Consolidated Mutual Mitigation and Surety, ICC – insurance underwriting and ancillary legal services

Crystal Flame, ICC – immortality (noetic backup archiving and insurance)

Databeat, ICC – major cycle brokerage and information furnace rental org

Ecogenetics, ICC – ecopoesis, living systems, environmental services, and bio-architecture

Enjoyment Unbounded, ICC – entertainment and luxury goods

Experia, ICC – entertainment and media (watchvid, InVid, slinky, and virtuality)

Extropa Energy, ICC – energy production and distribution, antimatter production, and fuels

Gilea and Company, ICC – banking, investments, and futures markets

Llyn Standard Manufacturing, ICC – cornucopias and industrial-scale production

Prosperity Nexus, ICC – investment, fund management, and commercial banking

Ring Dynamics, ICC – stargates (construction, maintenance and leasing)

Riverside Eubiosis Foundation, ICC – pharmaceuticals and health and medical services

Service Gate, ICC – contract matching and labor allocation

Stellar Express, ICC – delivery services, interstellar logistics, supply chains, and shipping

Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC – robotics, automation, and infrastructure technology

Telememe, ICC – news, statistics, demographics, data mining and information research

Traders in Ideation, ICC – information brokerage, rights management services and data warehousing

Ultimate Argument Risk Control, ICC – security services, military contracting, and mercenary brokerage

Vermilion Harvest, ICC – agriculture, silviculture, carniculture, and bioproducts

…but there are several others that compete close to these leagues – exactly which are named depends on who precisely you’re talking to.

Given the nature of the setting, of course, the traditional unremittingly negative portrayal of business in fiction is utterly averted, and the Big 26 receive the respect they deserve as the mighty prosperity-generating engines that they are.  But then, in their home markets, the free market actually is a free market, so they never had the opportunity to discover corrupt business strategies of monopoly, rent-seeking, and regulating the competition out of business, even if they didn’t tend to be run by people who are every bit as ideological as everyone else in the vicinity.

(Well, not that this opinion is shared by everyone.  Gilea & Co. and UARC, in particular, tend to attract some opprobrium elsewhere in the Associated Worlds, particularly in places that don’t appreciate the absolute sacredness of contract in Imperial ethics, Gilea & Co.’s policy of not recognizing any special difference between “states” and its regular commercial customers, and – especially – its willingness to pursue “asset realization” after a sovereign default with however many of UARC’s finest mercs it takes to impress upon the customer that when they do the job, they always get paid.  But that’s not the mainstream opinion at home.)

As a side note, while it is by no means a conventional corporation, the Imperial Charter makes use of much of the traditional structure of a joint-stock corporation in the Imperial government, such as it is – its citizens, for example, are citizen-shareholders in the technical lingo, and the traditional style of the Imperial Couple includes “Chief Executive Officers of the Imperium Incorporate” – so you could make a convincing argument that the Empire is, in quite a few senses, the biggest Mega Corp of them all.

The Job Free Market (2/3)

Where do you get these contracts?  After all, if employment as such doesn’t exist in the Empire, surely you won’t find any corporations employing hundreds, thousands, or millions of people?

Quite correct.  The Imperial corporation, from relatively small examples all the way up to the Big 26, is simply a nexus; capital, communications, computronium, and the most senior levels of management, usually called the Directorate.  (Which is not to say that they are all run by boards of directors – Imperial corporate law requires no specific organizational schema, so while there are examples of corporations run by conventional boards, there are also examples of corporations run by AI supervisors, reputation-weighted voting, contractee legislatures, internal prediction markets, Fusions or conflux consensuses, and a variety of other methods.)  The Directorate also are not employed by the corporation, instead being rewarded via compensation schemes tied to net profits and other corporate success metrics, as defined by the corporate charter.

More importantly, most work is not contracted directly by the Directorate – and if you were thinking of looking for work in the Directorate, they’ll call you.

Most work is the province of the Initiatives – spun-off “microcorporate” structures with their own internal charter which exist to perform some specific task – execute on a project, develop a software package, run a factory, operate a particular store, or some such, either as a one-time or a recurring task.  Such Initiatives can be founded by a single corporation or as a joint venture by many – or even by another Initiative – and can be retained by their founders, transferred elsewhere, or sold as a whole.  They receive capital and other resources from their founders, along with their charter and the attention of the Directorate, and usually return whatever profits they make once their obligations are satisfied to their present owners; but Initiatives usually contract for whatever else they need with individuals or other Initiatives, including all the work they need done, managerial, technical, administrative, or otherwise, and any secondary resources they need along the way.

It is among the Initiatives that you are most likely to find counterparties.  (It is important to remember that the majority of contracts are short-term or at best renewable; there are almost no “jobs for life”, and so you will be expected to manage your long-term affairs for yourself in many respects.  More on this later.)  For simple short-term contracts in low- and middle-end fields, the easiest method is to register with Service Gate, ICC, whose dataweave-mediated contract matching and labor market services are used by virtually all Initiatives, and which can therefore find work on a regular basis for all their labor-side clients.  And, of course, if you prove a success at a particular Initiative or with a particular team or manager, you can expect to be called on again for their future contracts.

For more senior or specialized positions, you may be able to find work through specialized path-pointers, but in practice, many if not most of these positions are filled through old-fashioned xicé networking; careful attention to one’s professional society and reputation networks will pay dividends here.

Another possible source of counterparties, if you have some starting capital available, is the so-called “bounty economy”.  In this, many corporations and Initiatives simply post work they wish to be done, problems they wish solved, and so forth, to a bounty registry, along with the amount they will pay for its completion or solution.  (Some, but not all, of these registries let you claim exclusive rights to attempt to solve a given problem for a period of time; others are strictly “winner takes all”.)  Whoever does the work or solves the problem receives the bounty.  These bounties can be a good source of income for the speculatively inclined.

For completeness, there is also the public contracts channel, to which anyone can post low-value contracts for completion by anyone in the area that chooses to pick them up.  While a convenient enough source of petty cash for small favors for anyone, such contracts as a rule don’t amount to enough to be a useful source of primary income.

– Working in the Worlds, Kernuaz Alliés