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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.


Image was originally posted to Flickr by mikemacmarketing at https://flickr.com/photos/152824664@N07/30212411048. It was reviewed on 29 October 2020 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.
Pieter Verdegem


Dr Pieter Verdegem is Reader in Technology and Society in the Westminster School of Media and Communication and member of CAMRI (the Communication and Media Research Institute).

His research investigates the political economy of media and communication and the impact of digital technologies on society.

He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and teaches core undergraduate and postgraduate modules every year.

Prior to joining the Westminster School of Media and Communication, he was Assistant Professor in New Media and ICT in the Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium (2012-2016) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University, Sweden (2011-2012). He holds a PhD in Communication Sciences from Ghent University.


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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