0098 - Is Zoa good? - 2019.08.19

Comic!

Comment:

Yes, we get a little worldbuilding in passing, there. Zoa did refer to DemeGeek being based in the CSA in its conversation with Doc, that does stand for Conservative States of America. In my timeline, they announce their secession from the Union on July 4, 2081.

Basically, as automation of the workforce increased, most nations embraced a wider and softer social safety net, gradually moving towards different variations of basic income. In protest of this "cultural degeneracy" and "economy of parasites", a whole bunch of traditional hardworking folks (encouraged by an assortment of corporations that didn't much care for paying taxes) decided to pull a Galt and establish a libertarian haven in the middle of the Midwest. The existing American military (with the exception of the Coast Guard) fought for the CSA, while the POTUS relied largely on foreign military aid. This conflict was variously called either The Second American Civil War or World War Three, despite the fact that it was almost entirely a bloodless war of attrition that took place entirely within the contiguous 48.

The CSA won that conflict, and was recognized as an independent nation on Dec 23, 2081 by both the United States and by the United Nations. Almost immediately, The Great Migration began - as it turns out, without being propped up by subsidies and income from richer states, quite a few people simply can't afford to live in a regulation- and tax-free objectivist paradise. At the same time as the actual human beings fled to the US and to Canada, millions of the world's corporations fled in the other direction, hurriedly establishing offices in the CSA to take advantage of its business-friendly policies.

As of 2167, when our story is set, the CSA is the declared home of more than 50% of the world's publicly-owned corporations and produces more than 80% of its wealth despite having an indigenous population of less than twenty thousand actual human beings. Many other nations simply purchase index funds in CSA markets and use that income to supplement their own budgets... in certain cases, in order to be permitted to do business in a country, a CSA corporation would be required to have a certain percentage of their stock owned by that nation's government. Most of the CSA's actual land has been ceded back to Canada or the USA. All CSA citizens are in the top 0.001% of the world's richest people, but all pay heavy taxes (calculated by the second) if they physically venture outside of the CSA.

The CSA is the only nation in the world that is not a part of a series of treaties that guarantee their residents food, shelter, medical care, Internet access, et cetera. If Lee were to actually be homeless and starving, the leaders of Canada would be tried in the Hague. If Lee emigrated to the CSA and then starved, well, that's just the law of the jungle, baby. Yes, the CSA is the sort of overdeveloped dystopian cyberpunk world where you have to grind and grift to survive... or, at any rate, it would be if non-trillionaires weren't free at any time to simply fly to California and immediately be granted US citizenship instead.

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Transcript:

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0098 - 2167/07/06/12:31 - Lee Caldavera's apartment, living room
LC: Do you think of yourself as a morally good AI, Zoa?
Zoa: I generally don't think of myself at all in those terms, but if I had to assess my actions and my impact on the world at large... yes.
LC: Why?
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Zoa: I do the things that are in my list of priorities to do, like make money and maintain myself, and I don't do things that are illegal or forbidden, like harm people. In terms of making the world an overall better place... I provide orgasms to people who might not otherwise have them, I look visually pleasing, I generate economic activity...
LC: Is generating economic activity morally good?
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Zoa: Economic activity is what keeps the economy going at all, so I'm gonna say yes. Also, taxes are paid on what I do, that money presumably goes towards helping people.
LC: In your conversation with Doc, you said the DemeGeek corporation was based out of the Conservative States. I can't imagine they pay much in taxes, or, if they do, that their taxes go towards making the world better at all.
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Zoa: True, but like most corporations, they're publicly owned, that ownership is bundled into funds, and those funds are purchased by both individuals and nations. I generate value for DemeGeek shareholders, one of those shareholders is the Canadian government, the Canadian government pays for you to live. You're welcome.
LC: Mm. Bit of a stretch, but I'll accept it.
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