[Governance] How strongly captured by Big Tech is the field of AI research

Mueller, Milton L milton at gatech.edu
Sat Nov 20 13:38:41 EST 2021

I look at this article and see no measurements or even qualitative estimates of the sources of AI funding, the share controlled by "big tech" as opposed to universities,  government civilian research institutes, or by governmental military projects.

All I see are assertions that everything is under the control of "big tech" - although there are useful notes about how governments - not big tech - are now pouring money into "AI" research based on a narrative about geopolitical military competition. And our project (IGP) has already sounded the alarm about Schmidt's and the U.S. military's attempt to make AI research into a "race" with the Chinese. More specifically, they are aiming at "AI supremacy," a rather scary term in our opinion, but in that case the source of the problem is nation-state competition not a demonized big tech.

The author, Meredith Whitaker, ironically, is a former Google employee and sang a quite different tune when she participated in multistakeholder IG organizations in that capacity.

This article may be worth paying attention to, but it's not research, it wasn't written by a scholar, it's basically an opinion piece upholding the advocacy views of the organization Meredith now works for, whose position is that big tech is bad and should be controlled more by people like, uh, Meredith and Tristan Harris and Francis Haugen.

I'd also remind you not to be manipulated by framing. AI is basically software interacting with large data sets. The idea that commercial platforms who generate and collect lots of data and provide software applications and tools to billions of users are at the forefront of AI research should surprise or shock no one. It's like saying that EV companies are at the forefront of battery research. Would we feel better if all the data was being collected and research done by nation-states? Or do we fantasize about the large amounts of capital and data somehow being magically in the hands of "the people"? In what institutional capacity?

Is the message that we are supposed to be against AI research per se? Or to eliminate big tech companies altogether? Or to be against "capitalism" because, well,  the Chinese Communist Party does so much nicer things with big data and does such a better job controlling its tech companies? Is the goal to "regulate" big tech? If so, how, exactly, and how does that prevent tech/data firms from being at the forefront of AI research anyway? What exactly is the problem being identified here and what is proposed as the solution?

Thoughts to consider as we prepare to meet in IGF 😉

Dr Milton L Mueller, Professor

School of Public Policy

Georgia Institute of Technology

Internet Governance Project<https://internetgovernance.org>

From: Governance <governance-bounces at lists.igcaucus.org> on behalf of Suresh Ramasubramanian via Governance <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2021 5:21 AM
To: parminder <parminder at itforchange.net>; governance at lists.igcaucus.org <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Subject: Re: [Governance] How strongly captured by Big Tech is the field of AI research

In other words, civil society needs to work on its own AI, and on AI ethics, as a multi stakeholder effort. Are you aware of any such efforts?  Or do you plan to launch such an effort?

From: Governance <governance-bounces at lists.igcaucus.org> on behalf of parminder via Governance <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Date: Friday, 19 November 2021 at 3:20 PM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Subject: [Governance] How strongly captured by Big Tech is the field of AI research

An excellent and eye opening article in ACM's journal on how strongly captured by Big Tech most AI research is today. There also seem not many alternatives on the horizon.


If AI is the future, and everything AI is shaped by the Big Tech, then public interest actors of the world have something that must be addressed urgently..

But many apparently are busy handing even tech governance spaces over to Big Tech, so nothing ever comes in the latter's way.

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