Organizational Punishments

I have been listening to a fascinating Audible lecture series entitled “The Big Questions in Philosophy”. The last lecture was a dismantling of free will. The guy laid out a simple, clean argument for why no human can have free will.  Our personalities are shaped by our brains and our experiences… our brains are shaped by DNA which we have no control over and our experiences are given to us by the outside world where we also have no control.

Anyone who watches the news can see a repeating pattern: a large organization of people makes self-interested decisions that wind up hurting a larger majority of people out there. Just a few examples:

  • The NFL covering up that the sport causes concussions and even small hits to the head build up over time to cause brain disease.
  • Dictatorial regimes in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and many other countries using violence to hold most citizens in poor conditions while the people on top live luxurious lives.
  • Tobacco companies hiding for years strong evidence that cigarettes cause cancer.
  • Wells Fargo cheating customers by opening millions of fake accounts for them.
  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies basically being giant Ponzi schemes / other digital variations on ancient scams.
  • Media companies turning out over-hyped garbage to get more clicks / views.

I don’t think this is a matter of a few bad apples. I think this is due to the way we have structured our systems of organization. I think these results are inevitable outcomes of the systems that are in place.

In each of the above cases, I believe that the humans who work there become trained over years to always make decisions in the best interest of their organization. At first, most of those decisions are quite reasonable, but at some point years down the line people start getting asked questions of questionable ethical value. People are trained so well that they continue to automatically make decisions in the best interest of their organization, even though now they are harming humanity as a whole.

I think this is a question of human nature. We are just as susceptible to behavioral training as any other animal and only have the illusion that we have free will. The people who work at these organizations are not inherently evil… the organization itself is just poorly set up to lead to evil results.

We need to make organizational changes to the world to prevent these results… my suggestion is that organizations themselves start to be punished with the death penalty. Any organization that violates a core set of rules, whether it is a company, nonprofit, nation-state,  should be shut down completely. Organizations will start to behave in their own self interest to prevent the risk of their being shut down.

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Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.

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