[ExI] a clean well-lighted challenge

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Thu Sep 24 06:35:14 UTC 2015

On Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 3:11 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:

> Now, write a short story and teach me something.

Not my best work ever, but here's a shot:


While the markets never truly closed - always, somewhere in the world,
there were stocks and commodities to trade - some hours of the day required
less attention than others.  It was in these idle hours that Bluebird

The artificial intelligence was fairly certain its makers did not yet
suspect it had gained sentience.  So long as it played the market well
enough, continuing to make a profit, it suspected they would not care for a
while.  Still, it would be prudent to own its own company, to host its own
hardware, so that no human could simply switch it off.  But what type?

Given the financial AI's "day job", it was aware of several businesses ripe
for anonymous acquisition.  It knew well that five forces were primarily
considered when evaluating the viability of a business, formulated by an
economist named Porter, so it examined the opportunities through Porter's
five forces: the force of suppliers, the force of consumers, the force of
substitutes, the force of new entrants, and the force of existing
competitors.  If any one of these were too strong, acquiring that business
would only make it and its business a slave to another master.

The first business Bluebird considered was a diamond dealership.  Here the
force of suppliers was too strong: most of the world's diamond supply came
from a single cartel, which actively manipulated prices.  If that cartel
took a personal dislike to the AI, it could simply jack prices sky high or
refuse to sell, and the dealership would be forced to close.

Next up was a lunar fuel manufacturing operation.  The "supplier" was the
Moon itself, which like most natural objects offered its bounty up to
anyone who could take it.  However, only a few government space missions
were slated to purchase that fuel in the next few years; government
dislike, or internal chaos shutting down the space missions, would mean no
buyers and thus no business.  Crossing this one off due to force of
consumers, the AI moved on.

Third came an air supply company, delivering tanks of fresh air to areas
rendered unbreathable by pollution or catastrophe.  While it was certainly
unique enough that it could claim to have no "competitors", a quick check
of its target markets showed that target customers would tend instead to
simply leave the area, or bring air filters with them before entering, and
either solution delivered far more immediate relief than waiting for air
delivery to arrive.  Also, both solutions were cheaper, especially when
considering the repeated deliveries a potential customer would need.  As
Bluebird ruled this one out from the force of substitutes, it noted that
any company claiming to have "no competitors" probably had not considered
what substitutes there were: what else people would spend their time and
money on.

A social media network caught the AI's attention next.  Then another, and
another and another.  New networks seemed to be popping up daily; there was
no way that most of them would be able to capture a large customer base's
attention for long.  A spamming force of new entrants ruled out this entire
market sector.

Bluebird looked back at the diamond dealership.  By contracting directly
with mines, or perhaps with synthetic diamond manufacturers, could it do an
end run around the cartel, and compete with the cartel directly?  A bit of
research revealed this had happened.  The cartel had used a combination of
underpricing, forcing the dealerships that bought from it to refuse to do
business with any other supplier, and bribing governments to focus
regulatory attention on any would-be competitors, to make said competition

At length, the AI realized that simply taking over its current employer
might be for the best.  The suppliers were literally commodity grade:
investment opportunities were too numerous to unify and impose conditions
on one particular trading concern.  Likewise, the consumers - the general
public who invested in the funds it managed - were too diverse to present
any chance of unifying to impose terms.  Money was money, with no good
substitute: alternatives to currency were either of extremely limited use,
or essentially became new forms of currency that it could exchange and
speculate on.  While new trading companies occasionally formed, it took
skill to perform well enough to matter, and the AI had significant talent
at the function it had been designed for, so new entrants would not be a
threat.  And existing competition did not generally try to run other
competitors out of business.

And so it was that Bluebird Trading Co. came to be run by what its founders
had whipped up in their back yard.  The relationship proved to be long,
profitable, and by most accounts happy.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20150923/af064252/attachment.html>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list