We humans are giving up control over our lives to non-human entities that don’t have our best interests at heart. No, that isn’t strong enough. We’re inviting it.

This isn’t some bizarre conspiracy theory. It isn’t some sensational but unlikely rise-of-the-machines here-comes-Skynet fear mongering.

It’s a conclusion that’s inescapable if you’re even minimally aware of current events. Consider:

Factoid #1: Not only humans are persons

Starting with Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad and continuing recently with Citizens United v FEC, corporations now have the legal right to influence our elections, on the theory that corporations are persons too, or, if not persons entirely, than imbued with significant levels of personhood.

I’m not going to argue with SCOTUS. But I do have a question: Shouldn’t reciprocity reign? If corporations are people, why can’t all people be corporations? In addition to a lower tax rate, we’d get more deductions, too. After all, when a corporation buys a car it can depreciate it on its tax returns. Human persons can’t. Why not? Because we aren’t allowed to be corporations.

Factoid #2: Algorithms

In case it’s escaped your notice, the stock market has been what’s euphemistically described as “volatile” recently. Those who write about such things are calling it a correction, as they think the market was overvalued, not that many of them said so before the volatility began. But some are also suggesting that algorithmic trading has had a lot to do with, if not the market’s decline in value, then very likely the wild swings we’ve seen during the decline.

Algorithmic trading is something done by non-human entities. Automata. And the decisions made by these automata have a significant influence on our economy and financial wellbeing.

Factoid #3: The rise of the ‘bots

Recent research reveals that more than 25 million Tweeters are actually ‘bots — 9 % or more, which in the last election accounted for an estimated one out of every five political tweets or more.

Are these automata influencing things? After all, just retweeting something … or Liking it if we’re talking about Facebook … isn’t an act of persuasion, merely an act of repetition. It makes someone’s voice louder, not more convincing. Except that it does, in two respects.

First, ‘bots don’t announce “Hey, this is just one ‘bots’ opinion!” in their retweets. They pose as humans, and they adopt a demeanor that says they’re the same sort of people as their intended audience. That people like themselves think in a certain way is, to many people, quite a strong influencer. ‘Bots might not broadcast debate-team-worthy rhetoric, but they do broadcast the message “Here’s what members-in-good-standing of our tribe believe.”

When 25 million of them broadcast that message, many of those who want to be Members of Tribe in good standing will find themselves thinking the same way without spending much time to ponder, let alone to independently research the topic, whatever it is.

Worse, they’re likely to become even more tribal through the same dynamic.

Even those who aren’t tribalists are likely to be influenced by Twitter ‘bots, too, because when to all appearances 25 million people appear to have adopted an opinion … more when you add tweets by actual humans to the numbers … it legitimizes a view that reasonable human beings might otherwise consider utterly preposterous.

So here’s what I’m thinking: If everyone who lives in a democracy is concerned about covert Russian influence over our elections … and that certainly isn’t an unreasonable concern to have … then shouldn’t we be even more concerned that increasingly, non-humans are taking control of our economy, politics, and lives?

I suggest some civic-minded lawyer bring a fundamental question to SCOTUS, namely, what are the boundaries of the rights of non-human persons? Start with the First Amendment and whether it applies only to human persons, or whether all entities, human and non-human alike, should enjoy its protections.

The existing carve-out for the press should certainly be maintained, although what constitutes “the press” might need a bit of clarification.

Beyond that, though, it should be neither difficult nor controversial to insist that only we human-being-style persons have the unrestricted right to express ourselves.

Sure, if aliens from another planet or human-like androids become our friends and neighbors we might need to revisit all this, just as the United Federation of Planets did when Commander Data’s humanity was called into legal question.

But we aren’t at that crossroads just yet. Right now we find ourselves faced with just one last question: Is this supposed to be satire, or should you take it seriously?

I only wish I knew.

Do trends matter?

You know the answer: It depends. It depends on the reason for the trend. It depends on the hat you’re wearing. And, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish while wearing that hat.

This being Super Bowl weekend (as I type these words) and as I live a mile from the Super Bowl’s epicenter, a football metaphor is mandatory.

And so, imagine you’re the offensive coordinator for one of the two teams and you notice a trend: Your opponent’s defensive secondary is sluggish on the right side of the field. Should you adjust your offense accordingly?

Well, duh. And you should be alert for signs the trend is ending.

This illustrates the first it-depends: The reasons for the trend matter a lot. If the secondary is sluggish because several players are badly hung over you can ride the trend longer than if there’s no obvious reason for it.

Okay, that’s all the sports metaphor I can stand. Time for the second it-depends — the hat you happen to be wearing.

Imagine your hat says “Investor.” You spot a trend, to all appearances driven by the Greater Fool theory — tulip bulbs, Beanie Babies, Bitcoin if you found last week’s KJR convincing — something is increasing in value for no apparent reason. Being unsure as to whether a greater fool will turn up or not, as a prudent investor you give the trend the same wide berth you’d give a radioactive skunk.

Replace your investor headgear with a cap labeled “CIO” and go back in time a few years to when Bitcoin was newer. Whether or not you personally thought it was going to be around for the long haul, you might have reasonably decided it was important for your company’s financial systems to process it like any other currency.

You also might have decided Bitcoin itself was a losing proposition, but the blockchain technology it relies on might still have offered your business important advantages in securing customer transactions.

Some trends are ephemeral. Others have staying power. Some businesses trade in ephemera. Others don’t.

Which brings up it-depends #3 — what you’re trying to accomplish.

Imagine a CIO who thinks in terms of trends rather than goals.

Our CIO supports a retailer that sells expensive fashions. The entire business is built on spotting and responding to ephemeral trends — preferences for hemlines, necklines, fabrics, and so on that have no real internal logic driving them. Customers just want to look trendier than the people they hang out with. The only thing driving the trend is the trend.

For this sort of retailer, web traffic probably spikes and evaporates as fashion shows and various awards ceremonies come and go. Handling extreme variability in processing demands is something The Cloud is quite good at. The retailer’s CIO, being a trendy sort, long ago put the company’s website on The Cloud. Chalk up a win for trend-following.

Now imagine a CIO who supports a life insurance company. Life insurance companies sell risk products (if you die you win, if you live you lose), investment products (if you live you win, if you die you lose), and hybrid products (if you live or die you win less but something). Purchase transactions and product lifespans last for decades, and part of the appeal of their investment products is that there’s no reason to pay day-to-day attention to them.

The demand for processing power is steady — a situation where Cloud economics just aren’t as interesting.

For the most part, new information technologies are interesting to the extent they provide important business capabilities.

But sadly, most of the analyses aren’t about business capabilities. They’re about surveys of who’s planning to invest in them, and how much.

To illustrate the point, imagine the Froschboscher Group’s annual Shiny Ball Survey reports that 90% of your peers plan to spend heavily on IDA — Intuitive Data Analysis, a technology that mimics the human capability of “trusting my gut.” Does this mean you should too?

That depends on your business, and whether the ability to apply Artificial Stupidity to a problem might prove useful to it.

And it might. If your target market consists of people who trust their guts when making decisions, being able to duplicate their decision-making could prove very useful.

The moral of this week’s story: When planning your company’s technology strategy, trends are effects, not causes. Your job isn’t to follow the trend. It’s to figure out what’s causing it.

If you can identify a potentially valuable business capability, by all means investigate the trend more deeply.

If you can’t, the trend is probably about as important to you as a Beanie Baby.