WALL*E and the Theory of the Firm

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8 Responses

  1. Roy says:

    I am a contract professor from China(China’s University of Political Science and Law), and appreciate your contract theory and ideas very much. Hope to be your friend.Roy (lexway@cupl.edu.cn)

  2. Mark Lyon says:

    One thought that bothered me during the entire movie (which was wonderful, by the way): The ship was launched 700 years ago.

    There was no apparent development of new robots (or other technology) taking place on the ship. The systems in place were those that existed upon launch. Therefore, EVE existed at the launch. So did that cute little cleaning robot. The food was the same, the environmental systems the same, the waste disposal the same. The ship even fit into its nice docking station on earth.

    Why wasn’t Wall*E also built using the streamlined technology? Heck, why didn’t they just unleash an army of EVE bots to vaporize the trash once the humans were safely ensconced in their spaceships.

    I also found it funny that in my theater (Regal E-Walk at Times Square) a “MPAA Enforcement” guy and his night vision camera were watching the audience the entire time to make certain we weren’t going to release onto the Internet a copy of a movie where the central character uses his own recording technology to copy other recordings.

  3. Colin Miller says:

    If you haven’t seen it, you should also check out Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy,” which raises a lot of the same questions.

    Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator. It’s Got What Plants Crave!

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Consider, say, Battlestar Galactica: do you think all their technology is based on economic incentives and competitive markets? Consider technologies developed during the Chinese dynastic period: were all those based on competitive markets? Consider the polio vaccine: competitive markets, again?

    Moreover, do you think all the information problems in business can be solved by technology? What kind of dystopia would that have to be? How would the information become available to the systems that would coordinate it, find it, etc. Who would have to consent to that? (Even assuming that the input problems could be fully automated …)

    I understand you’re just having fun shmoozing about the movie. And I can’t speculate on how EVE might have been in an alternative universe (or should I say, in a different alternative universe.) But maybe the reason for the paradox you mention is less the flexible imagination of Pixar than the rigid imagination of economists and their camp-followers when it comes to incentives for “innovation” and other features of the real world.

  5. madera verde says:

    A.J. Sutter. I think that innovation does not come from competition. Rather in non competetive enviroments innovations are suppressed (As happened in imperial china).

    In a non-competitive atmosphere those in charge have every reason to stifle innovations as they tend to disturb the social order. The same order which has them on top. There is no advantage for them to support innovation in most cases.

    In contrast a group (whether a firm or a city state or a sports team) has an incentive to embrace innovations because they are in competition with others – and to a large degree their leaders status is not fixed permanently on top but dependent on the result of competition.

  6. A.J. Sutter says:

    Madera (or may I call you Woody?): thanks for your comment. But it seems as if you’re implicitly suggesting some kind of link between political structure (social order) and capitalism.

    Modern China is a good object lesson against taking any politics-capitalism linkage too seriously. The government has embraced innovations, but has retained its iron hand on many aspects of the social order. The CCP has certainly not become more tolerant of competition to its authority. The disturbances of social order there have teneded to come more from inequality (economic and political) than from innovation.

    On the larger point, I do agree that innovation doesn’t necessarily come from competition — though I feel more comfortable saying “invention”. “Innovation” is a very overused word IMHO; I prefer Clayton Christensen’s more limited usage in “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” that innovation is commercialized invention. Unfortunately for many commentators, that would mean that counting patents is at best a partial index of invention only, and pretty much irrelevant as an index of innovation.

    BTW, there’s an ambiguity in your reference to “embracing innovation” (though I think you’re far from alone on this point): in what capacity is it “embraced”? If you’ve bought an iPod or other MP3 player in the past couple years, could you be said to have “embraced innovation”? If so, was it because of some competitive need? If you say that consumers qua consumers don’t “embrace” innovation, then how do you distinguish, say, many national swim teams’ switchover to high-tech low-water-resistance swimwear for the upcoming Olympics?

  7. Miriam Cherry says:

    How about bribery and control of the gov’t to maintain control over the (captive) market? I thought it was some sort of corruption scheme, but maybe I just missed something.

    My favorite part of the movie: the dialogue! (Ha :)