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2.1 The role of technology companies

Another major concern is the role of the technology companies in AI technology and its impact on society, and whether they are helping or hindering this. The following activity directly addresses these concerns.

Activity 4

Timing: 25 minutes

Read the blog entry [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] by Nick Srnicek (Srnicek, 2020), about the impact of big tech companies on innovation with AI. When you have finished reading Srnicek’s blog, consider the following statement, which contrasts with what Srnicek writes:

Far from Amazon, Microsoft and Google being obstacles to progress, they are in fact enabling access by much larger numbers of people outside of the commercial world to carry out such research, by shouldering the burden of cost, providing technical support for innovation, and generally helping to overcome the prohibitive lack of resources. Such companies, working at such massive scale, are in fact one of the key requirements for democratising AI and various enabling technologies.

With both Srnicek’s blog and this statement in mind, answer this question: What role do you think large companies play in progressing this area?

Here is a suggestion for how to complete this activity:

  • Create a two-columned table and arrange these two opposing positions side-by-side, i.e. ‘these large companies are obstacles to the democratisation of AI’ vs. ‘these large companies facilitate the democratisation of AI’.
  • Then list evidence supporting each position underneath, arranging these in the form of a debate as much as possible, so that evidence for each position is matched against evidence for the other position that seems somehow related.
  • Finally, based on a comparison of the columns in this table, decide which you think seems to be the strongest, most persuasive answer to this question. Try to arrive at a clear answer one way or the other.

Once you have completed this activity, click on ‘Save and Reveal Discussion’.


When you have completed this activity and hopefully have arrived at a clear answer to this question, you might like to reflect on this answer.