Like most companies the battery-making company is primarily a profit-making operation, but the profit-making-ness draws on a lot of not-purely-economic actors and their not-purely-economic subgoals.
Now imagine the company fires the inventor and replaces him with a genetic algorithm that optimizes battery design. It fires all its employees and replaces them with robots. It fires the CEO and replaces him with a superintelligent business-running algorithm. All of these are good decisions, from a profitability perspective. We can absolutely imagine a profit-driven shareholder-value-maximizing company doing all these things. But it reduces the company’s non-masturbatory participation in an economy that points outside itself, limits it to just a tenuous connection with soccer moms and maybe some shareholders who want yachts of their own.
Now take it further. Imagine that instead of being owned by humans directly, it’s owned by an algorithm-controlled venture capital fund. And imagine there are no soccer moms anymore; the company makes batteries for the trucks that ship raw materials from place to place. Every non-economic goal has been stripped away from the company; it’s just an appendage of Global Development.
Now take it even further, and imagine this is what’s happened everywhere. Algorithm-run banks lend money to algorithm-run companies that produce goods for other algorithm-run companies and so on ad infinitum.
-Slate Star Codex