The Companies are a collection of interlocking monopolies which dominate the economy. They make the robber barons of old look like pikers, and they are immensely rich.

The Terms of Service

The basis of societal control lies in the customer agreements which The Companies impose on everyone they do business with. The customer agrees that they have no rights, that the Company may collect data on them and share it with whomever they please, and that the Company may change the agreement at any time, without prior notice. Because they are monopolies, you have no choice; if you reject The Food Company’s contract, you don’t get to eat.

The contracts contain clauses that prohibit you from conducting commerce using their goods, services, or property; these serve to choke off potential competitors by denying them access to transportation, communication, banking, and other vital services. For example, if you bake cookies in your kitchen and sell them to your friends, The Food Company will stop selling your flour, The Transportation Company might begin to strip-search you every time you try to board a bus, and The Bank will take away however much money they think you made through your illegal commercial activity. If you persist, you will go to jail.

These agreements have broadly worded prohibitions against cultist behavior, i.e. anything that either UCE or The Companies don’t want you to do. Enforcement of these restrictions is generally lax, unless you anger someone in a position of authority, or you get caught up in one of the periodic crackdowns.

The Terms of Service narrowly define the permitted uses of goods and services, and that which is not allowed is forbidden. For example, the only permitted use of the mass transit system is personal travel; carrying goods is forbidden, as is socialization. Transporting a tin of cookies or striking up a casual conversation with your fellow passengers will, if detected, result in a minor ding to your social merit rating. The Companies are particularly strict in punishing any use of their property to arrange for illicit sexual liaisons. Inviting someone up to your apartment for the night could void your Housing Contract and get you evicted.


The AIs are watching everyone, all the time, looking for violations of the corporate Terms of Service, the UCE moral code, and government regulations. All infractions are logged and appropriately penalized. Virtuous behavior, on the other hand, is rewarded; credits are generously given for desirable behaviors such as submissiveness and sucking up to your superiors.

Periodically, The Hierarchy will target one of the cults for enhanced enforcement. It might be the Foodies one week and the Aficionados the next. These crackdowns are often driven by internal conflicts within the UCE movements and are used to settle personal scores. In a typical scenario, a Deputy First Minister might discover that one of their rivals has a penchant for fine food, and therefore launch a crackdown against the Foodies. Their target will be arrested, put on trial, and publicly humiliated, along with thousands of others caught up in the dragnet. The instigator of the crackdown will then express pious shock at the treachery of their now-disgraced enemy, and their hands will stay clean.

Premium Goods and the Underground Economy

UCE requires that all Citizens receive equivalent, though not necessarily identical, goods and services. The Companies are therefore allowed to reward deserving customers (those having high social merit scores) with premium products. This may lead to charges of distinctivism; the higher your status, the more you may come to enjoy ‘special’ treatment and ‘special’ food and clothing. Those at the top of the social order may therefore suffer a devastating fall from grace in a crackdown should they make an enemy of someone in a position of power.

The Companies spend considerable resources cracking down the underground economy, which provides black-market goods for those who can pay extra. This is done in cooperation with UCE; neither the Companies nor the Hierarchy want a market for premium goods and services to exist outside of their control. Participation in the black market is risky but common; if you are a Foodie, that is the only way you can obtain rarities like fresh vegetables and meat.

List of Companies

The following companies are either mentioned or implied to exist in the books written to date. There are others.

The Artificial Intelligence Company.
The Housing Company.
The Food Company.
The Transportation Company.
The Communications Company.
The Healthcare Company.
The Network Company.
The Chit-Chat Company.
The Entertainment Company.
The Clothing Company.
The Cosmetics Company.
The Delivery Company.
The Baseball Company.
The Drugs and Alcohol Company.
The Matchmaker Company.
The Pedicab Company.
The Parks and Recreation Company.
The Music Company.
The Elevator Company.
The Farm Company.
The Gravel Company.
The Prison Company.
The Fast Food Company.
The Atomic Bomb Company.
The Education Company.
The Bicycle Company.
The Baby Company.