Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Effusive Crackpot: Robot Cultist Martine Rothblatt Is the Highest Paid Woman in Corporate America

Friend of blog "JimF" directed my attention to an article published in the New York Times a few days ago, An Elusive Jackpot: Riches Come to Women as C.E.O.s, but Few Get There:
On our annual list of the 200 highest-paid chief executives in the United States, there were just 11 women. That’s 5.5 percent of the total, and similar to the 4.9 percent representation of female chief executives at the 1,000 biggest companies... [The list] raises questions about whether executive compensation is out of hand and whether it is to blame for national economic inequality. But the numbers also reflect another imbalance -- the lack of women at the pinnacle of corporate America.
While I do not doubt at all that the small proportion of overall executive compensation going to women is a symptom of sexism, I cannot say that I have any interest in a feminism that focuses on this symptom over so many more that impact so many more people so very much more catastrophically. The article refers briefly to the questions whether unprecedented levels of executive compensation today are themselves impossible to justify and possibly injurious to a sustainable economy, whether or not that compensation is finding its way into the pockets of more men than anybody else -- but once the point is made the article casts it aside and dives deep instead into the exciting lives of rich ladies.

Skip to the paragraph right before the end to understand why this post has the title it does, if you like, but first, for me, just to be clear, I can't help but say that I think there is no question the spiral in executive and managerial compensation while the buying power accorded the overabundant majority of people who work for living has been cratering for generations has been a complete catastrophe for this society. It has rendered the lives of most people more precarious and provoked a spiritual crisis of general anxiety and despair. It has undermined accountability in ways that have lowered the quality of the goods and services available to us all and limited the substantial innovation we are always told all this wealth concentration is actually good for. It has suffused our political system with unprecedented amounts of unaccountable cash and corruption and rendered it hopelessly dysfunctional and ever less democratic.

There should be new, steeply more progressive tax brackets to rein in these million and multimillion dollar executive pay packages. In my opinion there should be provisions constraining the difference between the lowest and highest rates of monetary and perquisite compensation to no more than six times more for lordly officers than for lowly staff as a condition for incorporation in every charter recognized by the United States -- and I think those charters should also always contain a provision requiring them never to act in ways that knowingly violate the common good as well as demand at least half of the positions on corporate boards be filled by people who do the actual work of the corporation.

Needless to say, I consider the compensation received by the women highlighted in the piece to be obscenely high and clearly dangerous to the hopes for a more sustainable, equitable, diverse, democratic society -- and the fact that far more men receive far more obscene and dangerous compensation seems to me obviously wrong but that anybody does at all seems to me obviously worse and obviously the problem demanding our attention.

Anyway, the reason "JimF" pointed me to the piece is not to provoke me into a jeremiad over unacceptable unchecked unscrupulous executive pay, but to reveal that, according to the article, the highest paid executive on the list is none other than Martine Rothblatt, who was paid thirty-eight million dollars last year, much of it as stock options. Yes, that's right, Martine Rothblatt Robot Cult muckety-muck, guru-wannabe of the transhumaoid techno-immortalist cyberangels-in-Holodeck-Heaven sect Terasem (see my What's Wrong With Terasem? for the fairly flabbergasting details), is the tenth highest paid corporate executive in America. In The "Imagination" of a Robot Cultist, a piece from 2009, I took Rothblatt to task for pretending coders are creating intelligent software when they obviously are not, especially to the extent that she seems to want to fight for the "rights" of such intelligent beings that are not in ways that misdirect attention and energy from the struggle for the rights of actually intelligent humans in the world, and for pretending that these frankly stupid and reactionary proposals make her the transhumanoid equivalent of Robert Kennedy and John Lennon. And in Martine Rothblatt's Artificial Imbecillence, a piece from 2010, I took Rothblatt to task for pretending that aggregated data-profiles of people are the same thing as people when obviously they are not, and for pretending even more insanely that such aggregations might amount somehow to the resurrection and immortalization of the real people they are profiles of. Rothblatt calls these immortal uploaded post-humans that don't exist "Mindclones" and, unsurprisingly given the above, she suggests that her devotion to "their" "rights" makes her an "activist" that calls to mind "a Frederick Douglass, a Cesar Chavez, a Susan B. Anthony and a Harvey Milk," you know, real people who really helped really real people who really needed it. 38 million dollars, people. The word you are looking for is "meritocracy."

So, I dunno, whatever. Setting aside the sexism symptomized in the comparative lack of women executives, I must say that it seemed to me the women who were represented in the list exhibited not very nice self-congratulatory upward fail in something like precisely the proportions one has come to expect from America's elite one-percenters. The special pathologies of the always irrationally exuberant tech sector seem scarcely meliorated by their titanic female sooper-geniuses -- Rothblatt aside, that the article hyperventilated about "superstars" Meg Whitman and Sheryl Sandberg was hardly encouraging on this score.

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