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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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There is a related sci-fi short story. A man crash lands on the earth and must aquire tremendous wealth to rebuild his ship. First he clones himself to improve his abilities and earns a small aount of money. He then "invents" things and grows his wealth by buying stocks on margin and by shorting stocks (for example, shorts ford, invents new car. Ford stock drops. Then he buys ford on margin, sells his invention to ford. Ford stock goes up. Then he rotates through several different industries, later inventing a much better car, repeats the cycle. Broke down the soviet union by loading up obsolete hovercars with obsolete consumer goods and sending them by auto pilot over th border. If anyone knows the name of the story or the author, please say so.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you happen to know the name of said story? :) $\endgroup$ – Sean Duggan Jul 25 '16 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ It wasn't just that he needed money to repair his ship, he needed technologies and resources that did not yet exist on the planet, so he helped steer the economy toward creating them for him. Sadly I don't remember the name of the story either, it's probably in one of the big anthology books on my shelf... $\endgroup$ – Perkins Jul 25 '16 at 22:47
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It's boring as hell but the answer is obviously to influence the performance of companies and trade against that influence.

Find some company where you can do good or bad. Place a call or put option. Rake in the money. Rinse and repeat.

Assuming he has near perfect knowledge he can easily optimize for what the best ways are to influence any company worldwide with the least chance of detection; whether that's sending a perfectly crafted email that lands a huge new contract or adding a subtle change to some contract that blows up a huge merger.

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Lot of good answers, at least this or another way most A have valuable points, if not literary, then have usable principle.

Gambling, criminal, financial, couching, research, development, adviser, call manager, technology, religion, automation etc etc.

No wonder in such wide spectrum of possible applications. His superiority - strength, intellectual, his social skills etc - are cheat codes to make him successful, at any area, where humans make some profit, and where they do not make profits. So it's expected for him to get best results in anything human do as individuals or small groups. Overall it is disguise for an AI.

So what he selects for making money is't so much important, he will get money as fast and as much as it is possible and as it needed. Not sure about 1000 billions tomorrow to build space ship, as much as he cares to be not so much suspicious there are some limitation. But overall, money road looks smooth for him.

Money buys money, sure, but what about his goal. If he wish to do something then may be he have to have some tools for that, maybe influence.

It was suggested short, middle and long time approaches (from 1 day to 40years), from 1\$ to 70-100 billion \$ total.

I wish to suggest middle-long therm, something around 200 billions per year.

Build gigagigafactory.

Plan

Let's take china as example, in something like 25 years, their economy specially export grew to first largest, with 2'275'000'000'000 $, List of countries by exports

How they did that, hard to tell in details, but one of big things definitely is outsourcing production.(they are on other end of that outsourcing process)

Lets take next step, outsource and production and researches, full auto.

Production made by robots (usual robots like kuka, ABB produces) slightly improved with sensors, algorithms, mobility - nothing super fancy as Asimov robots, much more as it is now, just bit of improvements.

Produce everything in house, open site where people can order manufacturing of details or product, send drawings, order researches to find optimal set of materials. So not only production but also service on top of production.

As large fully automatic factory you might to produce one piece of something by price of mass production. You also might offer for invention startups 0 setup cost, starting production form one piece of their product to millions as they need. Be more flexible in quantities and speed of production.
Make development of product more accessible for them(no need to buy production lines and components), faster(no need to wait shipment of part to test would they work or not, test that right in factory, remotely). Cheaper, faster, more flexible in approaches.
There are advantages of big everything producing factory worth separate answer.

Everything is done in house, it's pretty big factory maybe 10-20 km3 where different manufacture lines are located. Big one production line. Not in one day sure, needs time to grow, but keep it compact, actually one building. Artificial floating island in form of cube.

Make it 100% environment friendly, no waste out, no single gramm - so this way people will not complain. (may be except CO2, but it is possibly and might have reason to keep CO2 - so it's possible no waste)

Instead ships delivering raw materials, use dirigibles as supply units. Yes it's a bit more expensive, but is possible to make it cost 0 fuel to transport stuff, and is possible to transport big in size units (big deal actually for production equipment). But main reason is ecology around that place, if we wish to outperform china in production(in distant future, not sure if 30km3 is enough for that), in small place, we have to think about ecology much better then those who have huge land.

Take small country for that Kiribati, they are happy to get few millions as help, and not much happy to loose it, so probably they will be even more happy to not beg for money and have good renter which pays more then that, and gets peoples educations.

Good thing this country is member of UN, and member of Pacific alliance(or something like that, Australia is head there), no wars, no oil, no gas, plenty of sun.

It's not only about production, but also about outsourcing research. Some researches are not conducted because of lack of money for equipment, not so much important for those money etc.

Make laboratories, which could be rented - and experiments could be conducted remotely. It have to be figured out how it is better to do, and maybe not for all experiments it can be done - needs to find good approaches.

As example finding better alloys - is kinda repetitive task, needs to think to optimize searching methods but after that - do and test, do and test like Thomas Alva Edison did.

All equipment can be produced in home, on that gigagigigigfactory, so even if usual equipment for researches costs(to manufacture) so much as it costs now - at least it will be your profit, or it might be 2-3 times cheaper.

Renting laboratories will make some researches cheaper and(or) faster.

But everything or remote access or automation - goal is - no humans a board of gigigigigigafactory.

This way inside could be used some good exclusive technologies, for even better advantages. Or setup-ed lines for production something for internal use only.

it not only gives money, but ability to make things, like space ship as example, influence, etc.

N.B.
if you will choose Kiribati, ask for Vasya, he knows them all, will guide for 2% and will be face of operation if you wish for another 0.5%, to hide your true identity.

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Bitcoin farming, selling information processing and storage as-a-service, being IT-as-a-service, white-hat hacking-as-a-service (and black or red hat hacking subject to OP restrictions), and patenting any technologies it may have access to or can develop. Ebay farming might also be a possibility.

Also along with the 'lacks moral/ethical programming' yet subject to OP restrictions idea, blackmail and manipulation via blackmail of individuals in key positions of power, authority, and finance via cutouts for profit. Don't forget to include that it can probably hack governments, power grids, businesses, and more in the list of possible methods of blackmail and manipulation.

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One way to get good startup cash would be to succeed at the James Randy Million Dollar Challenge. This is a challenge in which the challenger has to do something that would be considered supernatural. They work with the James Randy Educational foundation to come up with a set of rules that would mutually meet their definitions of supernatural, and if the challenger can then meet those expectations, they are given a million dollars. No one has ever succeeded at the challenge, but it shouldn't be hard for the robot to do something that people are unable to do given his super senses and knowledge.

See here for more information about that specific challenge, or here for a wikipedia list of all of the challenges for evidence of the paranormal (some of which your robot would be able to spoof with his abilities and some of which your robot would qualify for directly be being an alien robot).

Then he could use that money as seed money to fund the other methods described in other answers

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Someone mentioned identity theft. Each U.S. State has an unclaimed funds list. Many of them are on the web. Accounts are transferred to the state after seven years idle. Use archive.org to find names that have been on the state lists for a few years, then persuade the state that you are the owner.

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Engage in multiple activities

So your premise has a critical contradiction in its stated goals; how to make a lot of money fast and avoid scrutiny, especially governmental. Think about what that implies: Any single entity making billions of dollars in a day/week/month would actually go unnoticed? I don't think so, at least not within the conventional meaning of "wealth". The thing authorities (and media, competitors, criminals, etc) will do when some massive undertaking begins or large sums of money start changing hands is follow the money.

However the robot can work around that with these rules:

  1. The robot won't spend any money on any large/visible or unusual projects;
  2. It won't put all its money in one place;
  3. It won't engage in any one scheme;
  4. Where possible will use crypto-currencies and hidden assets;

So the robot needs to decentralise/diversify its activities so each constitutes "small-time" activity and be able to hide assets and create millions of plausible identities. For a highly intelligent entity that can multitask this is probably pretty easy. It would simply create shell-companies and false identities in countries with poor record-keeping, ie off-shore tax havens and third-world nations.

Only when the robot is ready to make its move will it pool its resources. Presumably at that point detection won't matter because whatever it spends its money on is likely to attract more attention than how it made its money in the first place.

For what it's worth this is basically how organised crime works. A super-intelligent entity would presumably just be better at it since on top of its other benefits it wouldn't really have to worry about infiltration or disloyalty in its ranks.

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Selling Consumables and Services Humanity will Always Need

The robot should start with the food industry. Humanity will always want and need food. By starting with this fairly easy to start business, you can then start making millions. You should make something like bread and soup that is way better than any other product. News should spread fast about this wondrous food. When the hold on the market is strong enough, it could then start making other food products and variations of flavors existing products. Heck the robot may even start his own restaurant empire.

The robot could start with the repair industry. With so much machines and gadgets around, he could do some automative repair, cellphone repair, watch repair, bicycle repair, vulcanizing, appliance repair, etc. This industry may die down to a mediocre income in the ong term if the repairs are too excellent that machines rarely break anymore.

The robot could start with things like carpentry, painting, plumbing, cleaning, painting, planning. He could also do some wedding planning, party planning, education, training programs, contests, pageants, etc. May also go with making souvenirs and gift shops.

The Bigger Stuff

The moves above are fairly minor and once business is booming, you can begin with the bigger stuff. Start making recycling centers, go into into the metallurgy and mining industry, aviation industry, shipping, starting in the television industry and earn via advertisement, toy industry, pharmaceutical industry, paper industry, cloth industry, furniture making, programming applications, etc.

The robot could also go for tourism and build hotels, resorts, gift shops, museums, and preservation of antique buildings. He could also build some schools, highschools, colleges, libraries, and employment agencies. He should be able to avoid suspicion by having each industry he handles have a different name and owner.

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Consultancy.

Legal, engineering, software development, business management, the better his reputation the faster his reputation will grow and the greater his reputation the more work becomes available to him and the more he can charge for doing that work.

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  1. Show up at a hedge fund office. Use human psychology to get a job.
  2. Make lots of money for said hedge fund.
  3. Create a new hedge fund with the money earned.
  4. Make this hedge fund the most profitable in the world by using political influence, technical analysis and the like.

I think I described Goldman Sachs...

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The only way to make money is to exploit humanity. He can do this more or less, but if he wants to "survive" he

  • must not sell/invent advanced technology

(that makes him useless after a certain period of time, when humanity advances in super computing),

  • must not help humanity to cure some diseases by "researching" the cure

(because pharma concerns would make more profit out of the knowledge than the supercomputer could get) and

  • must not help politics to calm down and make peace all over the world

(that would lead to a global finance crisis, because so much money goes to military things).

So the only way is to somehow exploit the systems, humanity built up so far. Best way to go would be finance. As he has a supercomputerbrain he will probably be capable of doing much money by predicting the stock exchange. And if you take a look at the top100 richest in the world, you possibly notice that many of them just have a quiet life with less publicity than some semi-known actors.

But he also just could hack into banks, companies etc to steal money.

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  • $\begingroup$ "The only way to make money is to exploit humanity." That's overly cynical! Can one not make money by providing a useful service? $\endgroup$ – James Jul 21 '16 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ @James, not quickly and the request was for the fastest $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 21 '16 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix: See my answer. I think he could quickly become a rock star without exploiting anyone. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 21 '16 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ Usually don't downvote for political differences, but I can say without a doubt that you can make money without exploiting(not that necessarily he would choose to, but you can make tremendous amounts this way!). Also suggesting that world peace would cause a financial crisis is ridiculous! Sure lots of money goes to weapons, but to think the massive emerging markets in a developed Africa would not make up for it (not to mention lower taxes and/or more spending on education, NASA etc.) is just plain wrong. $\endgroup$ – wedstrom Jul 21 '16 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Supercomputerbrain is not psychic. Predicting the stock market won't be any more possible for him than the supercomputers already working on it. $\endgroup$ – djechlin Jul 21 '16 at 17:46

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