The book "Ready Player One" portrays a corporate dystopia where the feds have basically no power and no one respects the government.

Yet seemingly, IOI, (the company that runs the sixers) while they have no problem killing anyone, they're very particular in following federal law , for example:

Luckily, the Genetic Privacy Act made it illegal for IOI to sample my DNA.

How and why are the weak federal government's laws still respected by IOI especially when they have no compunction killing anyone?

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    IIRC any time the kill someone they make it look like an accident. IOI is still very weary of the government. But it's easy to get away with killing someone and making it look like an accident (gas leak, shotty construction, etc), meanwhile it's much harder to cover up identity theft through sampling of DNA.
    – onewho
    Sep 27, 2017 at 12:37
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    @onewho agreed, but why is IOI weary of the government?
    – TheAsh
    Sep 27, 2017 at 12:42
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    @TheAsh Because the Federal Government still exists. Law still regulates everything. That is why IOI doesn't control the OASIS; Law keeps it from being able to. Hence why Sorrento (IOI-655321) is hauled off in handcuffs at the end. Laws are still laws. Though; recognize as has been mentioned that only Sorrento was hauled away, because he was the only one that could be linked to anything, thanks to the video recording and memo he sent personally; though I do suspect the video would not hold up in court as well as the memo.
    – Odin1806
    Dec 23, 2017 at 22:42

3 Answers 3


My assumption is that the key difference is between routine and extra-ordinary activities. The following is all speculative, not based on anything concrete in the book.

IOI is willing to break laws and kill people in the hunt for the Egg. The number of times it does this and the number of people watching for them doing it is low and zero respectively.

The Genetic Privacy Act is a piece of bureaucratic legislation, which while it protects individuals is only useful for companies if done on mass. Just like today, companies don't use the browsing data of a single individual to target advertising, they use composites built from huge data sets. So in order to get anything out of the breaking the GPA, they'd have to do it a lot and make the result data available to a large number of people/teams within the company. And while there are government agencies looking for companies breaking these laws, there are also potentially large numbers of individuals and NGOs doing the same, just like they do over privacy violations today. So, IOI would have to do it a lot, and there are a lot of people watching.

This makes breaking the GPA a much higher risk than the odd murder, which is why IOI don't do it.

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    It was also much easier to hide the murders given the situations. Had IOI been able to find an easier way to get a hold of people's genetic data I bet they would have. I imagine that it might have been difficult to buy off all the necessary people (with elections always changing) and then the stubborn politicians that do the right thing not biting. Morals always make it more difficult to bride do-gooders and I imagine it would have been more difficult to kill a politician...
    – Odin1806
    Dec 24, 2017 at 17:43

It's quite simple and goes to definition of law: Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The key word here is "enforced". The government, via institutions of police and military, has monopoly over usage of force on a territory. Behind every law is ability to enforce it, aka use physical force to make someone comply to the law (and punish the law breaker, of course). As powerful as IOI is, they are not powerful enough to go against the government. It still has the ability to take their assets, put them on trial, even forcefully remove every one of them from their offices/beds and shoot them on the street and no one would be able to stop them.

Without the ability to enforce the law, there is no law. There is no government.

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    But if no one respects the government and they have no power, couldn't IOI just shoot down law enforcers, or even attempt a coup and take control of the country?
    – jgadoury
    Sep 27, 2017 at 13:54
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    @jgadoury: That's an iffy proposition because, the moment you start breaking the rules of the game, and show that the rules have no sway, what happens when others decide to follow suit?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 27, 2017 at 14:00
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    @jgadoury: Yes. But they obviously do respect it (or power it wields) enough not to try it. IOI is a mega corporation. They are not a movement, another government or terrorist organisation. The goals of the organisation is profit and continued existence. And this leads us nicely to another question: What is money? What gives worth to money? What makes $ worth a $? Government makes $ a valid medium of exchange and regulates how valuable it is. As proven nicely by this video: youtube.com/watch?v=WPmQKyTOFSk
    – jo1storm
    Sep 27, 2017 at 14:05

As noted by j01storm, people follow laws because they might be punished for transgressing. However, they also follow laws because it sets the rules of the game, which protects them from others. Take, for example, a game of football. Normally, everyone plays by certain rules of how you're allowed to tackle other players (no eye-gouging, no clipping, no excessive violence after the player is down) as much because they don't want to be thrown out of a game as anything else. But what if the "referee" doesn't really have any power, perhaps because you're playing a pickup game in the neighborhood? People still follow the rules, because, if they start tackling people dangerously, they run the risk of others following suit and attacking them. Thus, everyone keeps the peace and agrees to run by those rules, bending them at most, or breaking them covertly, but not doing so openly.

Admittedly, in the case of genetic sampling, this doesn't seem like something that would be a major issue, all in-house matters, but it might also be the principle of the matter, that they don't want to get into the habit of routinely breaking the rules lest the general structure of rules be seen as something that can be disregarded.

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    Also, IOI might not respect the Federal Government but they probably respect their rival corporations and who knows what they might do if one of their own is caught breaking the agreed rules (in this case, the law).
    – user22478
    Sep 27, 2017 at 23:57

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