Strategic Management Instruments for Cyber-Physical Organizations: Technological Posthumanization as a Driver of Strategic Innovation

International Journal of Contemporary Management 16, no. 3 (2017), pp. 139-55; MNiSW 2016 List B: 14 points

ABSTRACT: Strategic management instruments (SMIs) are tools used to analyze an organization’s strategic situation, formulate effective strategies, and successfully implement them. Despite SMIs’ importance, there has been little systematic research into them – and especially regarding the impact of emerging technologies on SMIs. Here we investigate whether the forces of technological posthumanization that are creating a new class of ‘cyber-physical organizations’ can be expected to affect innovation in the use of SMIs within such organizations. Through a review of strategic management literature, we identify nearly 100 SMIs and categorize them according to their use in (a) strategic analysis, (b) strategy formulation, or (c) strategy implementation. Meanwhile, an analysis of cyber-physical systems and technological posthumanization reveals three dynamics that are converging to create an emerging class of cyber-physical organizations: (a) roboticization of the workforce; (b) deepening human-computer integration; and (c) the ubiquitization of computation. A framework is developed for mapping the impacts of these dynamics onto the inputs, agents, processes, and outputs involved with the three types of SMIs. Application of the framework shows that technological posthumanization should be expected to both facilitate and require innovation in cyber-physical organizations’ use of all three types of SMIs.

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Technomancy and the Conjuring of Virtual Worlds: The Utilization of ‘Digital Magical Practice’ as Organizational Strategy

Technomancy and the Conjuring of Virtual Worlds

The 3rd DELab UW International Conference: Ongoing Digitalisation of Economies and Societies • Digital Economy Lab, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Warszawa • September 29, 2017

ABSTRACT: Efforts to formally define ‘magic’ and to identify the aspects that distinguish magical practice from other human pursuits have been made from both a theological perspective (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas) and, more recently, an anthropological perspective (e.g., Frazer, Mauss, Durkheim, Malinowski, and Tambiah). Frequently cited elements of magic include its use of esoteric symbols, gestures, and speech that are only understood only by a small, elite group of initiated practitioners; its use of specially prepared ritual instruments; its attempt to harness the power of invisible, intelligent, nonhuman entities (such as demons or nature deities) to produce specific physical effects; and its attempt to manipulate hidden (or ‘occult’) forms of causality rather than obviously explicable physical causality.

As early as the 1970s, scholars noted that the practice of computer programming reflects several such aspects of magic as it is traditionally defined. For example, conventional computer programming requires mastery of an esoteric body of knowledge passed down between generations of programmers; it employs arcane symbols arranged in elaborate sequential scripts structurally similar to magical incantations; and it allows computers to perform highly complex, seemingly ‘intelligent’ behaviors by means of causal processes that may be comprehensible to programmers but which to ordinary computer users appear quite mystifying.

In this presentation, we argue that it can be expected that the ‘magical’ aspects of computing technology will be transformed and enhanced over the coming years through the development of increasingly sophisticated technologies for virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and ubiquitous computing (UC) that converge to create ‘magically responsive’ digital-physical ecosystems and ‘enchanted’ cyber-physical societies.

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From Strategic Analysis to Organizational Foresight: 65 Techniques for Diagnosing Present Realities and Potential Futures

ISBN 978-1-944373-11-5 • Synthypnion Business, 2017 • 298 pages

The challenge of developing sound organizational strategy is growing increasingly difficult as accelerating technological change transforms the world’s competitive ecosystems in ways that render many traditional approaches to strategy obsolete. What are the concrete tools and techniques that a contemporary strategic analyst can employ to understand the critical elements of an organization’s internal structure and dynamics and external competitive environment – and to predict the ways in which they may evolve in the future? This book provides a practical step-by-step guide to using dozens of the most important tools for generating organizational insight and foresight, along with an investigation of their underlying nature and purpose. It serves as an accessible introduction for those seeking to learn the essentials of strategic analysis, as well as a comprehensive reference for the experienced organizational strategist.

The book employs the concept of the Strategic Futures Hub as a means for understanding eight domains that are key to the development of strategic foresight for any organization. These are: (1) an organization’s financial resources and realities; (2) its internal architecture and capacities; (3) its current and potential products; (4) consumers’ needs and anticipated future behaviors; (5) competitors and their expected future behaviors; (6) the current and future dynamics of the organization’s competitive ecosystem; (7) causal chains and possible, probable, and desirable organizational futures; and (8) potential organizational strategies. For each of these domains, the reader is taught when and why to choose (or avoid) specific techniques in order to answer a range of the most frequently encountered strategic questions. The volume explains not only traditional analytical tools like market opportunity analysis, benchmarking, resource analysis, stakeholder analysis, SWOT and PESTEL analyses, and the Delphi method, but also emerging techniques like internal prediction markets for organizations, as well as longer-range diagnostic tools from the field of futures studies, such as emerging issues analysis, backcasting, morphological analysis, the futures wheel, and cross-impact analysis.

The nature of each analytical technique is clearly and succinctly described, along with recommended approaches to its use and investigation of practical considerations such as the time commitment and skills required. Discussion of the techniques is enriched by a wealth of diagrams and extensive bibliographic references to the best contemporary scholarship and practice. While a few of the analytical techniques are targeted specifically at commercial enterprises, most will also be of great value to nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other non-commercial entities that are seeking to better understand their current realities and prospective futures from a strategic perspective.

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The Dystopian Megacorp: Non-Financial Strategies for Domination in Near-Future Cyber-Physical Ecosystems

The Dystopian Megacorp

His Master’s Voice 4th Annual Symposium: Utopias, Dystopias, and Ecotopias • Facta Ficta Research Centre, Kraków • March 25, 2017

ABSTRACT: Creators of cyberpunk science fiction envision a near future in which technological, political, and economic change yield a powerful new type of organization: the megacorporation or ‘megacorp,’ which is frequently depicted as contributing to (and exploiting) the dystopian nature of its society. By analyzing such fictional works, we formulate a definition of the ‘megacorp’ along with two conceptual frameworks: (1) a model of the megacorp as cyber-physical organism; and (2) a typology that reveals the ways in which different kinds of megacorps generate dystopian or (limited) utopian dynamics within their cyber-physical ecosystems. In developing the first framework, concepts from artificial life and management cybernetics are employed to argue that some megacorps are presented as incorporating artificial agency into their organizational architecture in such ways that they do not simply act ‘like’ living organisms but indeed constitute massive synthetic life-forms that inhabit the globalized digital-physical ecosystems of the near future. In developing the second framework, it is noted that contemporary corporations typically pursue a narrow range of strategies for achieving financial profitability so they can purchase resources needed to adapt and grow. However, we contend that – as depicted in cyberpunk science fiction – dystopian megacorps have available to them a broader range of non-financial strategies that they exploit to subdue competitors and obtain the resources needed to survive, evolve, and grow.

Such strategies may employ approaches that are legal and political (e.g., extraterritoriality; corporate courts; corporate citizenship; EULAs; ownership of individuals’ genetic code, cybernetic augmentations, and output); paramilitary (deployment of private military, police, and security forces; cyberwarfare); geospatial (construction of facilities isolated in fortified, orbital, or undersea arcologies; use of ubiquitous sensors and effectors to convert the entire Internet of Things into a corporate facility; virtualization and nonlocalization of organizational architecture; construction of new digital-physical ecosystems to dominate); biological (engineering of biomedical dependencies among employees and consumers; creation of ‘walled-garden’ commercial ecosystems requiring genetic modification for entry); psychological and sociocultural (direct neurocybernetic access to a population’s sensory, cognitive, and motor activity; cultural engineering; memetic warfare); or technological and informatic (monopolization of core global ICT infrastructure; ‘megascale’ data mining, computational simulation, and prediction; automated decision-making by AI; workforce roboticization and cyborgization). Three ‘views’ for analyzing competitive strategies of a megacorp are presented, each of which utilizes two dimensions to distinguish four types of megacorps according to their interactions with their ecosystem and resulting generation of dystopian or utopian dynamics.

The framework is then applied to numerous megacorps described in cyberpunk RPGs, including Arasaka and WorldSat (from Cyberpunk 2020); Evo, NeoNET, Proteus, Renraku, Saeder-Krupp, and Shiawase (from Shadowrun); Belltower Associates, the Picus Group, Tai Yong Medical, and VersaLife (from Deus Ex); Anubis, Augustus, and Imperial (from Ex Machina); and Golden Promise (from Interface Zero).

It is hoped that such frameworks can facilitate efforts to: (1) analyze the roles that creators of cyberpunk science fiction envision for megacorps in their worlds’ ecosystems; (2) explicate how megacorps’ competitive strategies contribute to the dystopian nature of their societies; (3) anticipate new competitive strategies that may emerge if our world’s actual business ecosystems evolve to resemble those presented in cyberpunk fiction; and (4) recognize any real-world corporations that begin to acquire characteristics of (dystopian) megacorps.

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Posthuman Management: Creating Effective Organizations in an Age of Social Robotics, Ubiquitous AI, Human Augmentation, and Virtual Worlds

ISBN 978-1-944373-05-4 • Second edition • Defragmenter Media, 2016 • 442 pages

What are the best practices for leading a workforce in which human employees have merged cognitively and physically with electronic information systems and work alongside social robots, artificial life-forms, and self-aware networks that are ‘colleagues’ rather than simply ‘tools’? How does one manage organizational structures and activities that span both actual and virtual worlds? How are the forces of technological posthumanization transforming the theory and practice of management?

This volume explores the reality that an organization’s workers, managers, customers, and other stakeholders increasingly comprise a complex network of human agents, artificial agents, and hybrid human-synthetic entities. The first part of the book develops the theoretical foundations of an emerging ‘organizational posthumanism’ and presents conceptual frameworks for understanding and managing the evolving workplace relationship between human and synthetic beings. Subsequent chapters investigate concrete management topics such as the likelihood that social robots might utilize charismatic authority to inspire and lead human workers; potential roles of AIs as managers of cross-cultural virtual teams; the ethics and legality of entrusting organizational decision-making to spatially diffuse robots that have no discernible identity or physical form; quantitative approaches to comparing the managerial capabilities of human and artificial agents; the creation of artificial life-forms that function as autonomous enterprises which evolve by competing against human businesses; neural implants as gateways that allow their human users to participate in new forms of organizational life; and the implications of advanced neuroprosthetics for information security and business model design.

As the first comprehensive application of posthumanist methodologies to the field of management, this volume will be of use to scholars and students of contemporary management and to management practitioners who must increasingly understand and guide the forces of technologization that are rapidly reshaping organizations’ form, dynamics, and societal roles.

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The Artificial Life-Form as Entrepreneur: Synthetic Organism-Enterprises and the Reconceptualization of Business

In Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems, edited by Hiroki Sayama, John Rieffel, Sebastian Risi, René Doursat and Hod Lipson, pp. 417-18 • Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014

ABSTRACT: In this work we demonstrate the theoretical possibility and explore the implications of developing artificial life that functions as an autonomous business within the real-world human economy. By drawing on the Viable Systems Approach (VSA), we introduce the new concept of an “organism-enterprise” that exists simultaneously as both a life-form and a business. We then reconceptualize the anthropocentric understanding of a “business” in a way that allows an artificial life-form to constitute a “synthetic” organism-enterprise (SOE) just as a human being functioning as a sole proprietor constitutes a “natural” organism-enterprise. Practical obstacles to the creation of SOEs are considered, along with possible means of surmounting them. SOEs would move a step beyond current examples of artificial life that produce goods or services within a simulated world or play a limited role within a human business: rather than competing against artificial organisms in a virtual world, SOEs could evolve through competition against human businesses in the real-world economy. We consider concrete examples of SOEs and conclude by highlighting legal, economic, and ethical issues that arise when a single economic ecosystem is shared by competing human and artificial life. The concept of an “organism-enterprise.” A business is defined as “the organized effort … to produce and sell, for a profit, the goods and services that satisfy society’s needs” (Pride, et al. 2014). Management theorists have drawn on biology to better understand the structure and function of such business organizations. Our research utilizes a systems theory grounded in neurophysiology, the Viable Systems Approach (VSA), that allows us to understand a business as an autopoietic organism or “system” that dwells within the ecosystem of a larger economy or “suprasystem” (Beer, 1981; Barile, et al. 2012). Within this ecosystem, a business must compete against other organisms for limited resources and adapt to environmental demands. In our human economy, individual businesses are born, grow, and die, and taken as a whole, this array of businesses forms an evolvable system.

We begin by considering one unique instance in which a business is not simply “analogous to” a living organism, but identical to it: namely, the case of a human being who functions as a sole proprietor. In this situation, a single system simultaneously satisfies all the requirements of being both a life-form and a business. Building on this case, we introduce the idea of a unitary “organism-enterprise,” a concept that is already instantiated in the form of at least 20 million “human organism-enterprises” within the United States alone. Reconceptualizing business to include synthetic organism-enterprises. Utilizing VSA and the concept of an organism-enterprise, we analyze the traditional anthropocentric understanding of business as an exclusively human activity to consider whether an artificial life-form could serve as a “synthetic organism-enterprise” (SOE) that is both a life-form and a business. We show that this is indeed possible, but requires us to transform our understanding of business. For example, human businesses are traditionally described as requiring four kinds of resources: 1) human; 2) material; 3) financial; and 4) information. To replace this anthropocentric understanding, we propose that a business be understood more generally as requiring: 1) agent resources; 2) material resources; 3) value-storing media; and 4) information. Similarly, a human business requires functional units filling roles in production, finance, marketing, human capital management, and information technology.

Drawing on VSA and the case of a human sole proprietor, we consider the ways in which these functions can be understood more generically, in such a way that they can also be performed by current and proposed forms of artificial life. We give particular attention to the role of “profit” in a human business and formulate an account of its correlate for an SOE: it is the difference between resources expended and received in exchanges in the suprasystem that provides an SOE with a potential for growth and insurance against environmental uncertainties. Figure 1 provides an overview of our reconceptualized “business process cycle,” which can be carried out equally well by either a human business or an artificial life-form that has been designed or evolved to fill a business role within a larger economic ecosystem.

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