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An alien robot comes to Earth and determines that part of his plan here involves geting set up with a lot of cash in as short a time span as possible. He has a number of physical and mental attributes exceeding that of the average human to assist him with this; namely:

  • As a non-fleshbag, he does not feel pain, bleed, need to eat, and so on. He does need a certain amount of oxygen, although very little, and "sleeps" in roughly human-like cycles to recharge.
  • He is more or less indestructible and will quickly heal from most wounds, excluding severe bodily trauma (e.g. losing a limb).
  • He has peak-human strength and speed, and superhuman reflexes. His senses of sight, sound, and smell are also superhuman, but not to the degree that they would no longer be grounded in reality.
  • His robotic brain functions on a level basically equal to that of a supercomputer; he has a perfect memory and is able to instantly process even highly complex information. This also allows him to read and learn very quickly, as he only needs to so much as look at a page in a book to fully understand it.
  • As one would expect from these capacities, he has educated himself extensively on humans and human culture. He can be assumed to have memorized all of our publicly-accessible history and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the world.
  • This also extends to knowledge of psychology, making him a very skilled people person. He has no supernatural powers of persuasion, but having memorized everything we have to offer about how our brains work brings him pretty close.

He looks and acts perfectly human, and would only risk discovery by allowing somebody to observe his inorganic functions (such as his lack of blood). He would prefer to keep a low profile and especially avoid government scrutiny, so anything overtly illegal is a bad idea. He is a more than capable fighter thanks to having memorized vast quantities of relevant information, on top of his physical capabilities. However, he would prefer to avoid having to kill or fight very many people, due to the attention that kind of thing tends to bring.

I imagine that his best bet in accomplishing this would be putting his supercomputer mind to use in some kind of large-scale financial maneuvering, but I'm not really sure what specifically he'd be able to do. Any input would be much appreciated.

Edited for extra details: He can choose where he ends up on Earth, but it likely doesn't matter too much. Even if he's not able to procure transportation, he can really just walk or swim to wherever he needs to go. He doesn't have a legal identity, on account of not being born on Earth, but probably wouldn't struggle too much with obtaining one by going through the standard processes as a John Doe or immigrant.

To expound on his self-imposed restrictions, he is not significantly opposed to illegal or arguably immoral means. However, as a general rule of thumb, any legal method is better than an illegal equivalent, and possibly better than even an otherwise superior illegal equivalent. This is for no other reason than to minimize attention; if he was completely certain nobody would ever realize the crime had been committed, then it wouldn't matter, but that's rarely a safe bet to make. He doesn't have a real problem with screwing people over or even killing them/otherwise bringing about their demise, but this is generally to be avoided for similar reasons. Also, all things considered equal, it's better not to eliminate potential future resources, even if there isn't an immediately useful connection in place.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 24 '16 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ Ultimate Fighting Robot. $\endgroup$ – RBarryYoung Jul 25 '16 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ Hack into the banking system and simply transfer small amounts from thousands of accounts into his own. Done. Any super-AI worthy of the name would be able to do this with no problems whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 25 '16 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ I start with asking what does a robot with these amazing abilities need money for? They seem like they would be perfectly capable of doing just about anything without needing money in the first place. $\endgroup$ – wjousts Jul 26 '16 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ He can wow people with his super human abilities and claim to be a false god (lots of people will fall for it)... or run for the president ;) $\endgroup$ – T J Aug 11 '16 at 11:28

41 Answers 41

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He could start a cult religion

With a near-perfect understanding of human psychology, he should have no trouble convincing people to give him their money. With careful maneuvering and timing, he could build up his organization to have significant economic and legal clout, protecting it from authorities that might try to shut it down.

In addition, he has the ability to demonstrate miraculous capabilities, further bolstering the faith of his followers in his superior nature. If he had sufficient advanced technology, he could even cure disease or injury to secure the loyalty of his followers.

In the end though, his strongest asset would be immunity to the human tendency toward megalomania, thus allowing him to carefully develop his base of power without losing it to hubris. If he's sufficiently benevolent, he might even use his developed power to eventually free his people from the slavery into which they had placed themselves, with newfound knowledge and abilities; really it depends on what his long-term goals are.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a brilliant idea. It might take a little longer than the options in some of the other answers, though. I can see his first exposure to TV being TBN, and the rest just progressing from there. $\endgroup$ – Justin Jul 21 '16 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ Incidentally, "I'm actually a robotic super-being from another planet" is exactly the sort of thing a cult leader would say, so he doesn't even need to be particularly deceptive. Hide in plain sight and profit. $\endgroup$ – Dan Bryant Jul 21 '16 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ I think you'd have to be careful with the mythology, though. Like if the robot tried to convince people that.. say, the basis of the faith was the belief that an evil galactic overlord brought billions of his subjects to Earth in a DC-8 millions of years ago and then put them into volcanos and murdered them with hydrogen bombs, it would just be too ridiculous for anyone to belie.... oh wait. Never mind. Carry on. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Jul 22 '16 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is very likely to work; but it does have the effect of being high profile. $\endgroup$ – Garet Claborn Jul 22 '16 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ @GaretClaborn, The biggest challenge here, I think, is that any significant amassing of wealth is almost certainly going to raise attention. Aside from the billionaire identity theft that aznbanana9 proposed, all of these techniques move money around, which is a heavily monitored activity (even if he's operating somewhere a bit dodgy without official oversight, you can be pretty confident that the local criminal elements will take notice of big money in the area.) If he gains wealth without power, he just makes himself a target. Depends on exactly how much money he's after, of course. $\endgroup$ – Dan Bryant Jul 22 '16 at 19:54
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Freelance Design/Development/Translation/Law/Ect

With superhuman intelligence and speed, the robot could juggle dozens of freelance contracts simultaneously and complete in a single day jobs that would normally take weeks. He could crawl freelancer contracting sites like a spider and automatically apply for jobs. He might need fake credentials to get the first few jobs, but he'll quickly gain reputation as the guy who always does perfect work.

If he wants to conceal the fact that he is a single agent who can work impossibly fast, he could open his own freelancing or contracting company. This company would state or imply that it has lots of contractor employees or freelancer users (or possibly both). In the case of a freelancing website, most of the accounts would actually belong to the robot.

To avoid being too unethical, the robot would charge competitive flat rates for jobs rather than an hourly rate. This way, he could finish a large project in an hour, then wait a week before turning it in.

The nice thing about this is that all he needs is an internet connection. This solution can be paired any other answer that would leave the robot with some down time.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is actually excellent. There is virtually no limit for the speed with which he will be able to complete complex and highly paid tasks. In all reality, the internet connection speed is probably the bottleneck (down- and then uploading the novel to translate will take longer than the translation), but there are solutions to this (he could easily find a cover job at a regional ISP node and work from there with all the bandwidth he needs). He also has most likely a computer interface which is not a keyboard. $\endgroup$ – Peter A. Schneider Jul 22 '16 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ In order to avoid arousing suspicion (how did this guy translate a 500-page novel in an hour?) it might be better to pose as a consulting firm than as a single individual. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Jul 22 '16 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @SPavel That's a good point, but I wonder how many people who can only afford a couple hundred dollars for graphic design will assume a "consultant" is out of reach for them. Perhaps he should open his own version of freelancer.com so he can conceal the fact that most of the accounts are sock puppets, while still appealing to the broadest possible audience. $\endgroup$ – acbabis Jul 22 '16 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @acbabis It might be better to split the difference and claim to be a service that breaks up one big task into microtasks and sends them to the crowd. Something like Captricity but for novels, for example. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Jul 22 '16 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @SPavel Another solution to avoid suspicion from working too fast is just waiting some more reasonable amount of time to return the finished work. No one needs to know that 9 of the 10 hours he spent 'working' on a project were idle (with regards to that project, they'd likely be spent working on other projects). $\endgroup$ – SnoringFrog Jul 22 '16 at 18:58
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Identity Theft

Okay, this answer is pretty crazy, but hear me out. Our superhuman, perfect memory robot should take advantage of someone who already has a lot of wealth. Our robot just has to kidnap/kill (murder?) a current billionare. Preferably young, as that gives him the most amount of "years" to be that person.

In terms of actually stealing the identity, I assume he knows how to impersonate people well and make disguises (given that we don't know the "biological" make-up of our robot, I wont assume much more). As long as there isn't some biological password (and depends. Our robot could "borrow" the unfortunate's victim's eye or hand or etc. etc.) to this person's wealth, our robot will eventually figure out how to bypass the various security measures protecting the wealth.

To hide the fact that he isn't actually Mr. (or Ms.) Net-Worth-Billions, it would be best to choose someone who isn't a large personality with the media and has relatively no obligations/connections. No living nuclear family would be ideal. And if the robot wants, he could make this figure drop off the face of the earth (within a few years, with our robot's capabilities), and as the years go by change identities to legitimate people after his fake identity "dies", willing his fortune to his new self, of course. A quick google search provides a good list here. (though I kept my research to a minimum. I feel as if searching "single young billionaires" is a little weird...)

To further increase his fortune, do what the other answers have suggested: invest in stock, gamble, etc.

NOTE: This idea came to my head before reading James's answer, but it follows the idea of using someone who already has a great deal of wealth.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this body snatcher approach is the fastest option, assuming he has the technical capability to become a convincing doppelgänger. It's also one of the least likely to arouse suspicion if pulled off well. $\endgroup$ – Dan Bryant Jul 22 '16 at 14:55
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The fastest way to make money for a robot with a supercomputer brain will be to hack the systems of the companies involved in running tax havens. These companies are intended to make money disappear from the taxation jurisdictions where it was originally earned.

Once it has enough control of those finance systems the robot can make the money disappear into accounts of its own. It will have set up those accounts in advance. Sensibly this money will be banked in as many parts of the planet as possible.

For a little color and excitement the robot could infiltrate drug rings and work its way up the criminal hierarchy. Then simply steal some of the large amounts of cash that drug dealers have a bad habit of leaving lying around. (Yep that's absolutely true too.)

If the robot could gain access to the Mister Big's of any drug rings it should be easy for it to either blackmail them or hack their bank accounts to make off with their ill-gotten gains.

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I think such a robot would scrounge up some pocket change (say 100 loaves of bread worth of local currency) in a trivial amount of time by noticing local opportunities within the first day or so of watching human behavioral patterns.

At this point, I think he'll buy a prepaid credit card and go straight to the best form of gambling online. With superior parallel processing, substantial winnings across multiple sites funneling into multiple discreet accounts will rack up finances quickly.

With a tidy sum in tow, the robot may now move to a more advantageous location. I think he'll start working with stocks, currency trade and the global market, as in Bellerephon's answer, however I don't see a passive role.

While being discreet is a goal, the robot will have a good grasp of its own abilities and how much confidence to have. With enough finances, covert identities beyond our tracking should be a breeze. Due to this I think such a bot will stimulate up and down turns in the market toward his advantage until he's got enough money to create a sustained system for whatever it needs money to do.

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    $\begingroup$ Good point, I hadn't thought of effecting the market himself. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Jul 21 '16 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ There are many supercomputers dedicated to stock trading, I don't see what advantage would the robot have there. $\endgroup$ – ventsyv Jul 21 '16 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerephon effecting the market? I think you mean affecting. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 21 '16 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @ventsyv I think the key difference here is that the robot would have the advantage of some form of sentience, which all the other supercomputers lack. Also, all the other supercomputers only have market data, whereas this robot basically can either trivially get any information it needs or already has it. $\endgroup$ – haneefmubarak Jul 23 '16 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ Parallel processing does not increase a person's chance in gambling. Online gambling is adjusted to account for card counters as there is almost no way to ban them. Thus you basically need luck in order to earn money from online gambling. $\endgroup$ – Cem Kalyoncu Jul 24 '16 at 17:53
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Professional gaming would be the career I would choose for that robot. With super-human reflexes, memory and processing capability, he would quickly become one of the top players. Winning in high paying tournaments would net in quite a good amount of cash. He could do olympics but medical checks would reveal his identity.

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    $\begingroup$ "...Upon multiple PlayFair(tm) reports and community provided in-game footage showing clear use of "Aimbot" software, we've been forced to permanently suspend the player account N0T_a_R0|30t_1010, and resend his invitation to the World Tournament." $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Jul 21 '16 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren There is actually a small plot point in Mass Effect 2 that has that situation. Legion apparently likes to play online games and has been accused multiple times of using hacks or aimbots but whenever they investigate him they never find anything. $\endgroup$ – TaylorAllred Jul 21 '16 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ This option, while probably less realistic, would be easier to write without as much research into trading, stock markets, and statistics as @Garet Claborn's and Bellerephon's answers would require. Plus, this would give the robot opportunities for entertaining interactions with the professional gaming subculture. He could also avoid government scrutiny more easily in gaming than in the stock market. $\endgroup$ – Justin Jul 21 '16 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ People use many super computers for stock market, yet they are not extremely successful. Additionally, when you make tons of money out of stock market, there would be people interested in your background. No one will question a quirky gamer who likes to keep his identity secret. $\endgroup$ – Cem Kalyoncu Jul 21 '16 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Justin it's realistic enough, there are lots of games where perception and coordination gives advantage - billiards, golf etc. All that is not only option, but it is realistic option, specially for initial lifting some cash and goods. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 1:34
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His best totally legal low key way is to buy stocks and shares and investments. With a supercomputer he would be able to predict crashes and booms with some accuracy. Furthermore he could be checking his investments permanently where their he is so he will be able to go out and do stuff at the same time. The only negative is if he is too successful he may be noticed.

A slow option would be to get a well paid job. Doctor, Company manager etc. Not having to buy anything will obviously speed his money making but it will still take many years.

Possibly the quickest legal way is too sell blueprints for alien technology. If he doesn't want to speed human technology growth too much he can sell old/outdated tech which will still be an advancement to humans. He would have to find an anonymous way to sell them but he should manage.

His quickest overall way is to hack into banks or, if he is more moral, large crime groups. He could take their money and keep it. He has a supercomputer brain so should be able to cover his tracks.

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    $\begingroup$ I prefer the last one. +1 $\endgroup$ – JanLeeYu Jul 21 '16 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure supercomputers can - there's companies spending a lot of money to try and do that, just because the potential returns are SO HUGE. But it may be that 'the market' is inherently impossible to predict. $\endgroup$ – Sobrique Jul 21 '16 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ We already have a lot of supercomputers buying stocks and shares and investments. The robot doesn't have anywhere near a unique advantage here... and it takes a lot of starter capital... and has a lot of risk. More computational power does not make one psychic. $\endgroup$ – djechlin Jul 21 '16 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's quite defined in the question. "able to instantly process even highly complex information" could be (over-)interpreted to mean that he can solve NP problems in constant time. But then again it only says he's equivalent to a supercomputer, not "way better than all earth computers put together" or anything. But on the third hand, he also (after hitting the books) knows more than any single programmer or team of programmers in the world and so could have unique insight. It's a different story according to which way you go. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 21 '16 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ Speed is of the essence with high-volume stock trading; quickly trading a few billion stocks that ticked up a penny then back down again over the course of a few milliseconds can net you a lot of money, very quickly. Plugging into a trading hub and processing the data directly would make our robot very rich, very fast; he could literally trade stocks faster than the time it takes a screen to update. Spreading transactions over thousands (or millions) of accounts would make it fairly untraceable, too. $\endgroup$ – ArmanX Jul 22 '16 at 22:19
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A lot of the answers here seem to be making 1 of 2 mistakes.

Mistake 1: Aiming too low

Being a doctor, doing a large number of freelance projects, becoming a professional gamer etc. These are all great ways to make tens of millions of dollars, but lousy ways to make billions of dollars. Given the robot's abilities, our aim should be to make billions of dollars, and I think that's certainly a realistic goal.

Mistake 2: Assuming that the robot can do something magical

Examples: Hacking accounts and draining them of billions of dollars, murdering and assuming the identity of a billionaire, starting a cult and brainwashing people into giving you billions of dollars. Read the question again - the robot's abilities are idealized forms of abilities that already exist in today's world. Supercomputer-like-processing power? Supercomputers already exist. Extremely good people skills? Genius level IQ? Perfect athletic abilities? People already exist with each of the above qualities. If it's so easy for someone with those abilities/skillsets to start a cult or make billions of dollars through hacking, they would have already done it by now.


The way to approach this problem, is by asking ourselves what the richest humans in the world have done, in order to amass vast sums of money, and then have the robot pursue similar strategies. Given that the richest humans have already amassed $10-100B in personal fortunes, this strategy will attain results on par with, or exceeding, previously suggested answers. And given that these are real success stories that we are emulating, that means that our strategy is going to be much more realistic and practical.


Option A: Finance/Trading

Some of the richest people in the world got there through finance. Warren Buffet, worth 60 billion dollars is the prime example. George Soros, Carl Icahn, Ray Dalio, each worth US$10-20B, are other great successes.

Strategy: Use superhuman intelligence to put together a perfect GMAT score and great MBA application. Attend a top school like Wharton/Harvard. Use the resulting connections and prestige to get a job at a successful Hedge Fund. Use your super-intelligence to deliver great ideas, analyses, and above-average returns. Use your salesmanship to make your above-average returns, sound like an extremely impressive accomplishment. Use your political skills and collection of accomplishments, to get promoted to top positions at the Hedge Fund.

Using that ledge, build a reputation for yourself, as one of the best investment minds in the industry. Eventually, either take over the top job at the Hedge Fund, or start a new fund of your own. Use your above average returns, and great people-skills, to attract massive amounts of capital. Make obscene amounts of money off the 2-and-20 model that Hedge Funds use for fees.

Upside:

  1. You can make $10-60B, over the course of 10-20 years
  2. You only have to beat the market by a small amount, on a consistent basis
  3. Pretty reliable and realistic strategy

Downside:

  1. If you happen to get an unlucky streak, your investment record will be ruined by mediocre returns, and you'll have a hard time escaping that

Option B: Entrepreneurship

With a few finance exceptions, the richest people in the world are all entrepreneurs. Bill Gates, worth 80 billion dollars, is a prime example. Carlos Slim, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, each worth US$40-60B, are all great examples as well.

Strategy: Identify a solvable market need, or a rapidly growing market. Use your intelligence and engineering skills, to build a great prototype. Use your prototype, along with your networking and people skills, to hire the best talent as early-stage employees, and secure VC funding. Use the capital and hired talent, to improve upon your prototype, make it even better, and attract more customers. Repeat the above, another 2-3 times.

Once your startup has grown into a medium-sized company, becomes its CEO and shift your focus towards management. Use your people skills to win lucrative contracts. Use your political skills to sabotage your competitors, or to rig the marketplace in your favor. Use your strategic and leadership skills, to shepherd your company into becoming the next Microsoft/Google/Apple. As a significant shareholder of a rapidly growing company, you can easily make tens of billions of dollars for yourself in the process.

Upside:

  1. Tremendous amount of money to be made. US$40-80B has been made by numerous successful founders.
  2. Relatively short time horizon: 10 years is sufficient to make tens of billions of dollars

Downside:

  1. "Identifying a solvable market need" or "picking a rapidly growing market" is very hard to do. You can easily find yourself in a dead-end market, or one that has already been won by entrenched incumbents.
  2. Most startups fail due to marketing reasons, not technical reasons. Even if you have a fantastic prototype, you may still fail to build user traction. Tremendous luck involved in building user traction. "Being in the right place at the right time"

Option C: Corporate Management

Join a extremely profitable company, at the entry level. Use your intelligence to deliver great work output. Use your political and networking skills to win promotions consistently. After ~10 promotions, you'll end up as the CEO of the company. Continue to deliver strong results, and earn lots of money for yourself in the process.

Upside:

  1. Extremely reliable. There isn't too much luck involved at any step. If your work is good enough, and you're good enough at charming people and playing politics, you're pretty much guaranteed to get promotions.
  2. In terms of power, the CEO of large companies have a tremendous amount of power. This power could be an end-goal in itself, or used as leverage to make more money in other ways.

Downside:

  1. You'll make peanuts, compared to options A and B. Jack Welch, the most famous and successful CEO in American History, is not even a billionaire. Realistically, given the robot's abilities, you'll make close to a billion, and if you're really good, maybe a couple billion. It's a far cry from what you can make in the earlier options.
  2. It'll take you a really long time. Assuming 10 levels between entry-level-positions and the CEO, and 2 years per promotion, it'll take you at least 20 years to work your way up to CEO. And then another 5-10 years to make some "real money".

Overall, if the objective is to make the most amount of money with the least amount of risk, option A is likely your best bet. Option B is the way to go if you feel really confident, and want a high-risk-high-reward option. And option C is the way to go if you want a low-risk-guaranteed-results option. The combination of these 3 options should beat any other ideas suggested here thus far.

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  • $\begingroup$ this is very almost the answer i was going to make - kudos :) $\endgroup$ – Jimmery Jul 25 '16 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Re: the risk of starting a new market: our hypothetical alien should have a pretty good leg up here. If the technology exists to make him, it's safe to say he's seen which future tech. is going to work and take hold. Just invest in what he already knows is going to be the winning tech based on his analysis of his own homeworld's history. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Wagner Jul 26 '16 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielWagner: Which tech catches on in the short term depends on the existing society, culture, and technology. The robot can know which future techs are viable / possible, but not which applications / implementations of those techs will work on Earth, or what marketing will work. Of course, the robot might be smart enough to work some of that out, but it's not a given. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Jul 26 '16 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterCordes He may not know the small details, but the broad strokes will be clear to him. Think about what return you would have gotten from early investing in the first few companies to build a car; the first few companies to build a computer; the first few companies to build a cell phone. Of course you won't know which model of car, computer, or cell phone will be the winner, but personal transport, computing, and mobile computing seem like strong bets if I'm going to visit another planet that hasn't developed them yet. (Whereas they were "out-there" tech to investors at some point.) $\endgroup$ – Daniel Wagner Jul 26 '16 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielWagner: Oh, you were talking about investing, rather than starting his own tech startup. I missed that while skimming >.<. Yes, I agree that's a solid plan. It avoids the eggs-in-one-basket problem of a tech startup having the right tech but wrong marketing or whatever that this answer points out. It also takes some money to invest. Maybe get some starting money from existing venture capitalists by proposing your own tech startup? Either swindle the venture capitalists (probably doable without breaking laws), or your own startup actually works and brings in some cash to invest. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Jul 27 '16 at 4:23
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Personal Assistant to the Wealthy

He could approach one of the richest individuals on the planet and prove himself to be a superhuman alien robot. Then offer to be that individual's secret personal assistant and advisor on all things for a very large fee.

I'm not sure if this idea fits your requirement regarding low profile...

He would prefer to keep a low profile and especially avoid government scrutiny...

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  • $\begingroup$ Heck - with his social skills he could probably convince the billionaire he can teleport him up to his galactic overlords, to take his place among the stars. The billionaire would leave his worldly possessions in the hands of his robotic friend and go into the teleporter (incinerator) and vanish :-) $\endgroup$ – Falco Jul 25 '16 at 9:54
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Build and licence processor chip designs. ARM just sold for 32 billion, without ever selling CPUs to consumers. They build reference designs and sell them. Don't destroy current technology; gradually grow to a dominant position in the market. Keep demand high by pushing new processor designs incrementally.

NVIDIA, ARM, and AMD all use this business model.

As the verge says, information is king!

http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/18/12211484/arm-holdings-softbank-acquisition-intellectual-property-patents-value

Another user suggested selling newer technology would water down his own advantage; this is true to a point, but if he is advanced enough he could simply beat our own technology long enough to make a fortune and stop before he becomes threatened. If he could drive his competition into the ground, he could delay technology in the long run.

EDIT: Really Quick Money Rather than sell new plans legitimately, he could sell current designs and technologies to shady buyers like North Korea, Iran and unscrupulous copycats willing to knock of the major chip designs.

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    $\begingroup$ "gradually grow to a dominant position in the market" Not particularly fast then. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 23 '16 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Pharap Being 4th place for a year or two is still a lot faster than the petty theft suggested by some. $\endgroup$ – wedstrom Jul 25 '16 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Make it like Unix. Sell it for free, make every os and program depend on our architecture and then make money $\endgroup$ – Motte001 Jul 25 '16 at 15:16
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Can't believe anyone has mentioned the gambling root here. A roulette wheel is pretty quickly memorized, and a super computer would have little issues calculating the speed of the ball vs the speed of the wheel and at least narrow down the part of the wheel the ball will land in well enough to skew odds heavily in its favor. Start with a low bet ($1 or so), win a couple times and increase the betting until the desired amount is achieved. Not an unlimited well as casino's will monitor, but it'll work to grow a decent nest egg.

Extra points if he can jump on a craps table and find a method to throw the dice in its favor as well.

If it's inclined to less morale methods, slight of hand techniques can be used to pick money off gambling tables or exchange cards at a blackjack table as well. Comes with the risk of being caught though.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget counting in Black Jack. :P It's well known that Black Jack can be beaten. Humans need clever schemes to derive the values to compute the probabilities involved. With a perfect memory, the robot could simply keep count of what has been played and use the proportions of played cards and unplayed cards to compute the probabilities of successful hands. $\endgroup$ – Nolo Jul 22 '16 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ There was a scene in an old 70s movie The Questor Tapes with this exact theme. Robot went to Vegas and started shooting craps. After a few wins, they swapped dice and gave him some subtly misshapen ones. The robot used his super-strength to crush them into proper shape, then continued to win. $\endgroup$ – TMN Jul 22 '16 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Twelfth Though I agree about roulette and perhaps dice given robotic precision on the toss, there are black jack counters who, by effectively playing to a slight advantage (individually), improve their chances. I never said the advantage was large that way or that a single entity could dramatically increase such an advantage, only that a robot could do it trivially. Big wins are still purely probabilistic in their occurrence. $\endgroup$ – Nolo Jul 23 '16 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ I do recall an article I read about the original roulette computer, built many years ago now. It seems one can purchase such a device now that fits on a keychain. A robot with encyclopedic knowledge of human history would know that and perhaps already have a strategy to win very quickly. $\endgroup$ – Nolo Jul 23 '16 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ Blackjack can be beaten by a single person, but the net gain isn't all that fast (at least not the system I used). And if you win enough, you find yourself being asked to leave the casino and to not enter any others. :-) $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 24 '16 at 6:34
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Fastest or Fastest Ethical?

The quickest off the bat would be crime. Stealing bitcoin would be an easy beginning with his skills.

Why doesn't anyone do this? They do

Follow this with leveraged manipulation of financial markets and a large fortune is there to be made in fairly short order.

Why doesn't anyone do this? It's well known that it's possible, but it's illegal everywhere. Doing it and not being caught, that's the game. The key to our robot doing this is that he can run the high speed trading in a considered manner rather than just using a script that reacts in a pre-programmed way.

Since he's a robot he has the advantage of replaceable kneecaps for when the organised crime syndicates catch up with him. Then he can relax into a fabulous lifestyle of high stakes poker.

Why doesn't anyone do this? They do, but most people aren't good enough. Poker is a game against other people, you have to be better at reading them than they are at reading you. Who can read the poker face of a robot?

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  • $\begingroup$ He should start with poker. An AI with uncanny human-reading skills should be able to make thousands of untaxed dollars a day from casino poker tables and tens of thousands from high stakes illegal tables. Then find some B players in the financial industry to create a shell trading corporation, and start racking up coin in the futures and forex markets where leverage can be 200:1. $\endgroup$ – Kent Jul 24 '16 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ Stealing bitcoin, or generating bitcoin.... If the robot has sufficient power they could feasibly generate the remaining bitcoin. $\endgroup$ – SLC Jul 25 '16 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Kent, poker requires a solid initial investment. He's going to need some money to put down before he can join in. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 26 '16 at 16:22
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For a relatively quick turnaround on some amounts of money, you could look towards outstanding academic bounties for answers to specific "unsolvable" things. These problems humans can't yet solve may have been solved already. The downside to this is the possibility of these requiring a (potentially lengthy) peer review process.

He could also sell pieces of his processing software to complete some objectives we're on the way to already like self-driving cars and things. Patenting or trademarking some processes and then selling the rights to use them to various large corporations could net him a nearly eternal revenue stream legally + without doing anything.

One such item might be whatever process he uses to determine what things are. We've been trying to teach computers to recognize objects in pictures ever since computers were invented, if he could establish those algorithms and sell licenses, he might never need more money.

Similarly, processes for material creation/manipulation, new metallic alloys or non-metallic compounds, new storage media for data (especially non-volatile methods), his entire body is made up of things that our scientific community would foam at the mouth just thinking about. And again, patenting these things and then charging for their use would provide a long-term income stream.

Once he has money he could also potentially purchase things we consider waste materials that he's able to re-process into usable materials, patent a process using them and then resell the materials to others (using one or more shell companies so that it isn't blatantly obvious what he did there).

The patents (conveniently) don't require any ongoing effort from him other than cashing checks, leaving his time free for whatever. They might also provide plot hooks if people start trying to steal them, use them improperly or turn them into weapons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting thought. On one hand, it would have a different perspective. Ability to notice things we don't. On the other, being a supercomputer does not impart even human-level creativity, let alone exceeding the human-level it has, so it might be limited to knowledge it already possesses, and improving existing processes. But then, it could hire consultants of its own. $\endgroup$ – kaay Jul 22 '16 at 9:18
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He could print the money

Being a supersmart AI engineered by a technologically superior alien civilization, he could simply build a sophisticated money printing machine. Using his superior technological knowledge, it would not at all be a problem for him to fake the petty security features on humanity's modern bank notes.

Given his vast knowledge of human psychology, the robot could also take over a central bank such as the Federal Reserve by economic and political manipulation. He would then have access to the human money printing infrastructure.

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess that officials would notice that someone is printing the money if he printed enough of it. $\endgroup$ – MatthewRock Jul 25 '16 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ This answer would be better if you put "print" in quotes; really, the robot would be smart enough to hack into central bank and simply create money to transfer to himself. $\endgroup$ – axsvl77 Jul 26 '16 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ Printing physical money isn't that productive. You'd need 10,000 $100 notes just to get your first million. And then what? "Hello Mr. Bankman, can I deposit this innocuous briefcase filled with one million in newly printed bank notes?" $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 Jul 26 '16 at 22:42
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How about...

Telemarketing/scams

You know that Nigerian prince that keeps asking you to help him transfer his $8,000,000 inheritance?

Those emails still float around because there's at least a couple of people who fall for it.

Now imagine this Nigerian prince upgraded his grammar, and was the most intuitive and socially gifted person on the planet. Able to laugh and cry, and understand you like no one ever has.

Oh and only one body? For a super computer? First goal is to produce multiple bodies/robots/voice+phone extensions, so he can make 100,000 calls and emails simultaneously. Computer processors don't need to "focus" like we do, they are amazing at parallel processing.

More ethical version

Now he's set up with a call station where he plugs into 10,000 phones, he puts out an online education website. One-on-one tutoring with the world expert in the field you want to study. Patient enough for a 5-year-old (at 20USD per hour), intelligent enough to coach Elon Musk through his next invention (at 2,000USD per hour, + 8% shares in the company). Anyone in the world with any amount of money would invest in this top education system.

Then we go beyond academic help. Maybe there's a million/billionaire who is suicidally depressed. Mr. Smooth gets him back on his feet, ready to take on the world once again. What value does this rich man put on his life? Maybe that motivation is worth 200million to him (because he'd be dead otherwise).

This version takes a bit of time to set up a repertoire (and you need quick money to buy all the phone lines, etc). So maybe a combination of the two, and if he wants to be nice, the ones he scammed get a free year's subscription to his tutoring.

Edit—Anonymity

Being a common household name in the Education industry isn't "minimizing attention", but I suggest he could do something similar to IceFrog. Still known everywhere, but known for being anonymous.

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  • $\begingroup$ This started off fun, but became serious o_O $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 Jul 21 '16 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ Ethical version is good. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ Given that the bad grammar of the Nigerian Prince is intentional (so that people who are likely to smell the scam leave early), improving it would only be good if the exceptional psychology skills of the robot allow them to choose gullible targets from the start. $\endgroup$ – Zachiel Jul 24 '16 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the exceptional psych skills creates gullibility. Also, processing in parallel, he doesn't need to weed anyone out. It's no loss to him, juggling hundreds of thousands of contacts. He's a super computer. Even a regular computer could probably correspond with that number of people via email. $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 Jul 24 '16 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Mirror318: Weeding out is needed to keep from getting shutdown too quickly. Every non-idiot who reads your email translates to a nontrivial probability of abuse reports to the network authorities in charge of whatever network you're sending your spam through. $\endgroup$ – R.. Jul 25 '16 at 3:23
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Black Widow / Trophy Wife

If it can perfectly do about anything the best of us can do in any field and it has the looks, this robot should have no problem being the perfect spouse for a billionaire. It should hook up, marry and kill an old billionaire and inherit millions.

The only problematic is the kill part, but it shouldn't be a problem, with superior knowledge of toxicology. But if the robot is good enough with the law and acting its part, it could also marry and divorce and get half the assets in court :-)

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    $\begingroup$ Killing isn't required; just incapacitating the spouse for a while is enough. $\endgroup$ – axsvl77 Jul 26 '16 at 2:53
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Enter the movie business

My suggestion would be for him to found a company. Probably an entertainment company as that's big business. The robot being able to understand every pop culture reference by reading thousands of webpages, posts, and comments at a time could be a fantastic writer in modern culture. He could also watch and process many sources of video at once, multiple tv channels and youtube videos. Our robot friend could easily create scripts for movies and tv shows that are algorithmically guaranteed to succeed based on the mass amounts of data he is able to process. The robot would probably have to publish under a pen name, or claim that a staff or team of writers created them.

Because of the amazing social skills the robot would be able to gain very quickly, getting started with just a script for a block buster movie or two wouldn't be difficult. With the money from that the robot could produce their own movies and begin to form relationships with people in show business, with the goal being to eventually start his own company to rival that of twentieth century fox and disney.

As an added bonus if he lived a private life, that just makes him more of a fixation in society. He could then market his own brands and get paid huge amounts to appear on tv or be interviewed by journalists. Not to mention the amount of power he would wield over the populace. Someone already mentioned a religion, but isn't pop culture just religion in a different form? We have weird and arbitrary rules we that we follow and people get ridiculed or idolized for breaking, we have customs that are observed surrounding important events, and it provides a system where some people are arbitrarily lifted above the rest of society. But I digress. If the robot then used his influence to get people to donate to charities he had a hand in or was an administrator to, there would be loads of money to be had there as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Lewis. For more information on how things work I would suggest checking out the help center and feel free to join us in Worldbuilding Chat once you hit 20 rep $\endgroup$ – James Jul 22 '16 at 18:15
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The same way that robots make money in our own world nowadays.

With the difference that being sentient, this one does not need a human tayloring and retayloring it with ever new stories to fool the gullible. The nigerian elite trying to hide money overseas gets old really fast, you know.

Set up multiple accounts on tax havens, send the bait and wait. Easy peasy.

The robot could also make money on pyramid schemes, or for a more honest living on the internet, by running arbitrage - say, between Ali Baba and Ebay, for example. Buy cheap junk on one, sell it for 10x its price on the other.

Also adware. The robot, being a robot, could set up a million pages full of junk and ads. By gaming with SEO, the robot could get enough clicks to make a living.

Last but not least, it probably comes from a place with far superior technology than ours. The robot could use technology we can't even dream of nowadays to crack bitcoin (cue in to some specialists claiming how this would take more computing power than what is feasible), or to release a search engine better than Google and Bing and compete with them, for example.

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    $\begingroup$ How often can you really sell something for 10x? Mining bitcoin isn't a bad idea though, he doesn't need to break the system, just outperform most others in the system for long enough to get his seed money (a measly few hundred millions to start a few little corporations). $\endgroup$ – wedstrom Jul 21 '16 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @wedstrom hmm, interesting, how fast quantum computer would be on such task. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 22 '16 at 2:34
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An advanced alien with excellent understanding of human psychology and culture should have some good ideas about what startling revolutionary concepts humanity is ready for "next". Invent it.

Your alien is definitely one of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Satoshi Nakamoto, but I don't know which. If Steve Jobs, he already made enough money to get home. For that matter, he could be one of the first two and Satoshi.

The cunning thing about Bitcoin is that it helps avoid scrutiny: it's very hard to be all three of rich, unknown, and legal, so an alien who wants to be all three in the modern world might have to invent a crypto-currency even if he didn't plan to cheat at it. By getting in early and designing the algorithm to your own exotic super-computer-based abilities (and perhaps even based on some advanced knowledge of a break in the crypto primitives involved?) you could rapidly build a fortune so large that the limiting factor is how you convert it to other assets without making it obvious they're all ultimately being paid to the same person.

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    $\begingroup$ "Your alien is definitely one of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Satoshi Nakamoto" Clearly the latter, as the robot's keeping a low profile... $\endgroup$ – T.J. Crowder Jul 23 '16 at 14:46
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Arbitrage on Jewelry

With superhuman appraisal abilities, he could recognize under priced jewelry in Shenzhen, then use his swimming ability to cross the harbor to Hong Kong, then use his knowledge of human psychology to sell the jewelry at a premium.

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Mine Bitcoin

Use it's supercomputer brain to score bitcoin to get some basic investment capital.

Develop Apps

Adapt a popular game/divertesment from it's own world and sell it, using the money from Bitcoins to finance. Alternatively, there are probably several "obvious in hindsight" apps it could develop and sell based on Apps and Utilities available in it's homeworld. Think A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mining Bitcoin is my favorite one here. It's much faster than, say, inventing something, founding a corporation, or starting a movie studio. And the best way to mine Bitcoin is with a supercomputer. He's got one in his head, doesn't he? $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson Jul 26 '16 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ShawnV.Wilson not necessary faster, some pikabu go might make you lot of moneys, in short time, so making viral products is lot faster way to make money, and knowing human psychology might help here. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 27 '16 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, inventing something could be faster, there are tons of apps out there that make millions of dollars relatively quickly. You need at least some capital to develop and deploy an app, but once you've got that you can probably make money much faster assuming you can create a truly sweet app. Bitcoin might be a good starting point, but even with a supercomputer it will be a relatively small steady stream of income. $\endgroup$ – aslum Jul 27 '16 at 13:05
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With this robot's abilities it seems to me the easiest way to rack up tons of cash quickly is to become a bounty hunter.

He could probably quickly locate, capture, and deliver Ayman Al-Zawahiri who has a $25 million bounty in his head alone. Alternatively he could work for insurance companies recovering high priced insured stolen goods. Regardless if he is hunting people, treasure, or a mix of both the robot could capture several high value targets around the globe quickly. The bounty hunting proceeds would then become his seed money for the real wealth generators.

Next he leverages this cash to bootstrap big real estate deals, tech startups, or whatever else his superior intellect deems to be the best investment vehicle. Once these investments take off he launches a SpaceX competitor to cover the creation of his launch vehicle.

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PayPal fraud

Use known (or unknown, if you're keen) security vulnerabilities in web software to harvest usernames and passwords and a botnet. This gives you access to a lot of careless payment accounts up front, no further effort needed. You probably want to throttle and distribute your activity so that you don't alarm PayPal so much that they lock down all payments or something – your botnet helps here a little. Laundering the ill-gotten gains is probably the hard part: maybe you don't even have a bank account, and have to resort to something like buying gold or drugs or other physical value stores online, and arranging for them to be delivered to a sketchy alley or somewhere you can pick them up without having to own the postal address.

There's also a bunch more analogous cybercrime, e.g. ransomware, which seems similarly suited to your abilities.

One thing that I think has been assumed in other answers but not given in the question is the ability to interface directly with the Internet or other computer systems. That would make the above strategy (and many others) hugely more scalable, but you'd maybe need some creativity to build the input/output devices that would actually enable you to do it. Then I imagine a lot of your early profits would go into upgrading your hardware and network connection, so that you could keep scaling up.

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Best advantages :

  • Knowledge of alien technology

  • Super computer brain

Worst disadvantages:

  • Lack of bank account, ID documents etc

  • Lack of seed funds

The hardest part for your robot is the begining. With no legal identity he really can't enter into any legal high paying venture. With no seed money he cant even gamble or purchase fake ID, internet access etc.

Step one : Seed money

  • High risk : use superior physical abilities to steal money

  • Low reward : manual labour, odd jobs, cash in hand work

Step two : First 100k

  • Medium Risk : Black jack. With his super computer brain he can count cards and consistently win at black jack. Also perfect play at poker should beat most human players.

  • Low reward : Bitcoin mining. once he can afford an internet connection that super computer brain can be directly used to create bitcoins. Difficult to convert to real money though.

Step three : Buy fake identity

With a legal ID and bank account your hero is now able to work bigger schemes.

  • High Risk : attract venture capital with alien tech. This has to be the easiest option. You dont even have to sell the product. Just have some impresive prototypes. Maybe have human pastys to front the companies

  • High Risk : illegal fiancial products like a ponzi scheme

Low Risk/Reward : ???

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Security Bounties

Analyze software systems for security risks and report them for huge cash bonuses. He could likely report tons of them in a day, which would be way faster than a slow build up of religion. Then, he can work for private software companies or start his own security firm.

Microsoft pays out big time for security bounties, as does Apple, Facebook, Google, Mozilla. Your robot could bring in hundreds of thousand of dollars, or even millions, in a single day. Probably while walking down the street.

Since "He would prefer to keep a low profile and especially avoid government scrutiny, so anything overtly illegal is a bad idea." I'm suggesting the legal avenues of security bounties, since this is less likely to result in him being investigated.

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    $\begingroup$ Why go for the low-paying bounties? Sell the 0days to higher-paying buyers. Or better yet, use them to influence stock prices and short stocks. $\endgroup$ – R.. Jul 25 '16 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ he will definitely drew attention and will be investigated, trough it's not big problem, easy to solve, just pretend to be Anonymous network. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 27 '16 at 1:04
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Why do he need to work, he can transfer virtual money as every thing is in digital format. He can hack and create account and enter any amount of money in that. Once he is in the database. He can have several accounts and lots of money into them in different banks so that no one can catch his illegality. He can perform all above task mentioned by readers. He can replace all big things with his better versions. Something better than google, better than microsoft or apple.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why does a robot have an easier access to closed databases than a human? $\endgroup$ – Hohmannfan Jul 22 '16 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ This is my preferred answer. He will be able to hack anything he wants with his superior intelligence, knowledge and ability to scan for relevant information. (Just remember the latest credit card data leaks -- and these were not banks). He'll be able to move much larger amounts of money much faster than with most of the other suggestions (religion, real contractor work). We talk billions here. $\endgroup$ – Peter A. Schneider Jul 22 '16 at 15:36
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A quick way to make small amounts of money fast would be to be a street performer, like for example, a juggler or a magician, making money with his superhuman abilities.

If he makes some money he can show some of it to passers by and use it to bet that he can do something that few or no humans can do. I once read something about dropping a dollar bill a specific distance and being able to catch it out of the air after it had gained sped by falling that distance was humanly impossible. Whatever the precise details, the robot could make some money by betting that he could do it and those he bet against couldn't.

The robot could select a human who looked rather fast and athletic (like in the 75th percentile in speed) and bet him that he could run a specific distance faster than the human. The robot would probably only have to run as fast as a human in the 80th or 85th percentile to barely beat the human and win the bet.

If the robot could quickly and easily change its appearance it wouldn't matter if sometimes cameras caught it committing crimes. Thus it could quickly break into cars, jump start them, and sell them to chop shops. It could quickly break into houses in unexpected places that wouldn't have alarms, and steal valuable goods (but only stuff that could survive the process of getting out of the houses) to fence. Thus the robot might quickly make a small amount of money by petty crime.

So if the robot quickly makes a small amount of money by various means, it would have enough to get a cheap fake idea, and possibly get 2 low paying jobs on different shifts. Then it might fairly quickly amass enough money to get a much better fake identity, pay for patenting inventions, invest in something with a very high return, etc.

So those are some ideas how the robot could start from nothing.

But why start from nothing? If the robot has selected Earth and studied Earth for some time before landing, why doesn't it bring counterfeit money, synthetic jewels, gold bars, prototypes of slight improvements over Earth technology, and other wealth with it?

If the robot does that it can skip the early stages and perhaps go straight to a big money making plan.

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Become an advisor to the rich and powerful.

Being a master of human nature, he'd have no problem charming himself past security and staffers, and getting personal meetings with politicians, businessmen, CEOs, national leaders, etc. Once there, he'd break the ice with advice so astonishingly clear they wouldn't even question where he came from, and he'd consult them on an ongoing basis. He'd be the "quiet little secret" of the powerful across the globe, and would be paid very handsomely for it.

Low profile, friends in the right places, and potential to make a lot of money in a short period. Works?

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With a perfect memory and superhuman reflexes, he should be able to make big bucks quickly as a rock star.

Then get active with investments and day trading after getting a big pool of money.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe you're implying that talent or ability has some correlation with success in the current music industry. I don't think that's been true for a couple of generations or more $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 21 '16 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix: While your comment is cute, I do believe there is SOME correlation between musical ability and ability to generate revenue via ticket sales, iTunes sales, product endorsements, etc. I know that the artists I listen to have substantial talent. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 21 '16 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ @James True, but thousands or millions more have at least as much talent but get no-where. Talent is (usually) a prerequisite but is not enough by itself. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jul 21 '16 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, he would be pairing that talent with a near-perfect understanding of human psychology and politics. It would still be a pretty slow process, though, plus it creates a lot of unwanted attention, diluting the wealth acquisition with undesirable fame. $\endgroup$ – Dan Bryant Jul 21 '16 at 17:51
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Bodysnatching is an excellent plan, but offing a billionaire is thinking too small. What about the head of the most powerful, isolated organization in the world?

No, not the POTUS.

The director of the NSA.

With direct access to an organization that already is completely opaque, and servants able and willing to commit crime and atrocities for the 'greater good', and an instinct for engendering fanatical loyalty, and access to yet further, as yet underutilized, supercomputers, citizen databases, and globe-spanning botnets, now running alien code and duplicates of his personality and... Well, you get the idea. Money would be no issue, nor would anything else. As for avoiding attention, well, there's not really a better place to work.

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