Rising AI and the Concentration of Corporate Power

Technology reshapes our societies. AI, platform economy and other technological developments are remaking our daily routines, practices, and ways of being in the world. These changes also come with shifts in power dynamics between corporations, states, and citizens, giving rise to novel political questions. This multidisciplinary event delves into the concentration of power held by Big Tech companies, the societal challenges arising from this concentration, and potential strategies to uphold public imperatives.

In the contemporary era, we are witnessing an unprecedented acceleration in technological advancements. This is particularly evident in the domains of platformization and artificial intelligence, which have fundamentally reshaped the fabric of our societies. These transformations are not merely confined to the technological sphere, but extend to the socio-political landscape as well, influencing power dynamics between corporations, states, and citizens.

The rise of Big Tech companies has led to a significant concentration of power, with a handful of corporations now wielding substantial influence over various aspects of our lives. This concentration of power has given rise to a multitude of societal challenges. These range from concerns over privacy and data security, to issues of market monopoly and the potential for manipulation of public discourse.

This multidisciplinary event aims to delve deeper into these critical issues. We will explore the nature and extent of the power held by Big Tech companies, and the societal implications of this concentration of power. Furthermore, we will discuss potential strategies to uphold public imperatives in the face of these challenges. We hope to foster a nuanced understanding of the complex interplay between technology, power, and society, and to contribute to the ongoing dialogue on how best to navigate the challenges posed by the rise of Big Tech. We look forward to your participation in this important discussion.

About the speakers

Corinne Cath is an anthropologist who studies internet governance cultures, infrastructure politics, and cloud computing drawing from anthropological methods and cultural theory, at TU Delft. Their other research interests include space governance and artificial intelligence. Some of their recent work considers the role of cloud computing in the political economy of generative AI, the dangers of the datafied welfare state, bias and discrimination in AI, and reimagining public-private governance of internet infrastructures.

Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, He leads a research group examining the politics and socio-economic implications of digital technologies. He is one of the world’s most cited authors on gig work and the platform economy. His current research examines the geopolitics of digital infrastructures.

Andrea Leiter is an Assistant Professor at the Amsterdam Center for International Law at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on technology enabled governance and is embedded in the Sustainable Global Economic Law (SGEL) project. She researches on global inequality and transnational law making through private actors with a focus on the digital economy and blockchain technology.

Matti Ylönen is a University Lecturer in World Politics at the University of Helsinki, with a focus on Global Political Economy. He has published extensively on the politics of multinational enterprises, tax havens, consultancy firms, and global development, and is currently working on a research project on the power of big tech companies in the European Union.

Daniel Mügge (moderator) is Professor of Political Arithmetic at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). As leader of the NWO Vici project RegulAite, he investigates EU governance of AI and its embeddedness of global geopolitical and economic competition. At the UvA, he is also co-founder of the research platform and the research priority area AI & Politics. A political economist by training, he has been a visiting researcher at Harvard’s Center for European Studies, the London School of Economics and the Freie Universität Berlin, his alma mater.

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