Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Infoworld.com.
Corporations make for excellent villains. Faceless, bureaucratic, and ruthlessly dedicated to the profit motive—or other nefarious agendas—they’re the ideal evil entities for modern society. As with robots and androids, we can project onto evil corporations all our fears and anxieties about inhuman powers beyond our control.
Science-fiction writers have been hip to this for a while. The secretive and sinister corporation has long been a go-to villain in sci-fi books, movies, TV shows, and video games. With few exceptions, depictions of these fictional corporations highlight the dystopia that can arise from technical innovations unchecked by ethical use and implementation.
Artificial intelligence, surveillance technology, Internet of things—as today’s emerging technologies further resemble that of science fiction, questions arise regarding the extent to which global capitalism can balance ethics and the profit motive. Here we take a look at eight infamous corporations from the annals of science fiction, along with affiliated developments in real-world business and technology. Think of it as a kind of gut check on what could happen if we turn off our sense of ethics the moment we walk through that office door.