I bet you never thought of yourself as a corporation, did you? Don’t lie now. Well, you are. In fact, in terms of being incorporated, you are the mother of all mergers. After all, look at all we have managed to accomplish (or destroy) in the several hundred millennia we have been on the planet. A mere blink of the eye in geologic time. You know how corporations get to be so big and complex, right? They start out as small businesses that interact with other small businesses until one of the slightly larger businesses decides it would be more efficient to simply consolidate with a smaller one that provides it with much needed services. Once this happens, redundant personnel are eliminated and the smaller business becomes a subsidiary of the larger one. The process continues to repeat itself until you have more subsidiaries. After a while, the larger corporation begins to swallow up not just small businesses, but other smaller corporations that have subsidiaries themselves. This is the most efficient way for a corporation to grow into a megacorporation. It is hierarchical in nature. This is the crux of what this blog is all about. Now substitute a bacterium for a small business. A large one engulfs a smaller one, but instead of merely digesting it, the smaller one becomes an endosymbiont. It provides something that the larger bacterium needs and vice versa. This happens all the time in nature. The two bacteria replicate together and produce a new species with a selective advantage over the two original “parents”. In the meantime, the smaller bacteria becomes a subsidiary of the larger one by losing redundant elements it no longer requires for survival like its cell wall and other components required for autonomy. At that point, it is no longer an endosymbiont but part of the “corporation”. The process is repeated and rapidly accelerates once larger cells begin to incorporate smaller corporatized cells.
Now what happens when this megacorporation begins to fail, go into bankruptcy so to speak? Well, assuming there is no government bailout program; it will begin shedding assets in order to stay alive as long as possible. In other words, it starts falling apart. Panic ensues and subsidiaries go into survival mode. It becomes every subsidiary for itself, then every subsubsidiary for itself and eventually, every man for himself. Anarchy reigns. There is rioting in the streets as dying entities go door to door, trying to break in and steal whatever they can to survive. This is necrosis in action, the breakdown of cellular civilization, and it can lead to cancer (criminal enterprise).
Now let’s assume there is a government “bailout” of sorts. In this case, the government regulates the megacorporations instead of the megacorporations regulating themselves. The government is above the fray, so to speak. The government manages the orderly dismantling of the failing megacorporation. There is no panic, no anarchy. It is safely dismantled and all the pieces are recycled for the benefit of other healthy megacorporations. This is apoptosis and it provides a definite selective advantage over cells that do not have it.
Next post: Cellular Upgrades Via Endosymbionts