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Dismantling AI capitalism: the commons as an alternative to the power concentration of Big Tech

A Research Paper by Pieter Verdegem, published by AI & Society

This article discusses the political economy of AI capitalism. It considers AI as a General Purpose Technology (GPT) and argues we need to investigate the power concentration of Big Tech. AI capitalism is characterised by the commodification of data, data extraction and a concentration in hiring of AI talent and compute capacity. This is behind Big Tech’s unstoppable drive for growth, which leads to monopolisation and enclosure under the winner takes all principle. If we consider AI as a GPT—technologies that alter society’s economic and social structures—we need to come up with alternatives in terms of ownership and governance. The commons is proposed as an alternative for thinking about how to organise AI development and how to distribute the value that can be derived from it. Using the commons framework is also a way of giving society a more prominent role in the debate about what we expect from AI and how we should approach it.


Pieter Verdegem


Pieter Verdegem is a Senior Lecturer in Media Theory at the University of Westminster, London. He holds a PhD in Communication Sciences (Ghent University, 2009), with a thesis on government strategies in the information society. From 2011 until early 2012 he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University, Sweden. From 2012 until August 2016 he was an Assistant Professor in New Media and ICT in the Department of Communication Sciences at Ghent University, Belgium.


12 April 2022
Published By
AI & Society
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CAMRI | Dismantling AI capitalism: the commons as an alternative to the power concentration of Big Tech - CAMRI
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