Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta

Cloud Empires on Bridging the Gaps

The rise of the platform economy puts state-like power in the hands of platform owners with little or no accountability. Over the past few decades, the chaotic and lawless early Internet evolved into a digital reality where e-commerce and digital services platform owners dictate decisions that affect millions living in different countries and jurisdictions. In his book “Cloud Empires: How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control” professor Vili Lehdonvirta explains how tech platforms got to where they are. The book outlines the history and evolution of tech platforms by telling the stories of individuals, the role they played in shaping and reshaping the Internet leading to the present day digital reality. Lehdonvirta emphasises that we can only begin to democratise digital platforms if we recognize them for what they are: institutions as powerful as the state. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta; we discuss the book, the new social order established by the digital platform companies, and how the accumulated power of platforms could be challenged to hold them more accountable and to regain control.

Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. His research examines how digital technologies are used to reshape the organisation of economic activities in society. His research focuses on the questions such as what are the implications to workers, entrepreneurs, and states, and how can this digital economy be governed? His research draws on theories and approaches from economic sociology, political economy, industrial relations, new institutional economics, and science and technology studies.

We begin by discussing the chaotic and lawless days of the early Internet. We explore the emergence of the underlying theme to resist the undue influence of outsiders and to resist government regulations in favour of giving users more control, even in the early days of Usenet. We then discuss the emergence of Bitcoin in the context of a number of historic parallels such as the medieval economy and the Athenian peasant revolt. We explore the possibility, or perhaps the impossibility, of achieving true neutrality and privacy using BitCoin. At this point we start looking at the true nature of state-like powers accumulated by today’s cloud empires. An interesting point we touch upon is that similar to independent states and sovereign countries, are these state-like cloud empires protecting their users. We then look at the legal rights of employees working in these giant organisations. Finally we look at the two questions that emerge from the subtitle of the book “How digital platforms are overtaking the state and how we can regain control”. The first question is why it is important that we take back control, and the second question is, how should we do this. This has been an enlightening and thought provoking discussion.

Complement this discussion with Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration and then listen to Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek.

By |January 8th, 2023|Computer Science, Future, History, Podcasts, Technology|

“Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration” with Professor Thomas Davenport and Professor Steven Miller

Working with AI Reviewed at Bridging the Gaps

There is a widespread view that artificial intelligence is a job destroyer technical endeavour. There is both enthusiasm and doom around automation and the use of artificial intelligence-enabled “smart” solutions at work. In their latest book “Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration”, management and technology experts professor Thomas Davenport and professor Steven Miller explain that AI is not primarily a job destroyer, despite popular predictions, prescriptions, and condemnation. Rather, AI alters the way we work by automating specific tasks but not entire careers, and thus freeing people to do more important and difficult work. In the book, they demonstrate that AI in the workplace is not the stuff of science fiction; it is currently happening to many businesses and workers. They provide extensive, real-world case studies of AI-augmented occupations in contexts ranging from finance to the manufacturing floor.

In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Thomas Davenport and professor Steven Miller to discuss their fascinating research, and to talk through various case studies and real work use cases that they outline in the book. We discuss the impact of Artificial intelligence technologies on the job market and on the future of work. We also discuss future hybrid working environments where AI and Humans will work side by side.

Professor Thomas Davenport is a Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, a visiting professor at the Oxford University and a Fellow of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Steven Miller is Professor Emeritus of Information Systems at Singapore Management University.

We begin our discussion by looking at various aspects of the environments where AI and human workers work side by side, and then discuss the concept of Hybrid Intelligence. Then we talk about the challenges that organisations are faced with while developing and implementing Artificial Intelligence enabled technologies and solutions in enterprise environments. An important question that I raise during our discussion is, are the organisations ready for large scale deployment of AI solutions. The book is full of real world case studies and covers a wide variety of use cases. We delve into a number of these real world case studies and use cases. This has been a very informative discussion.

Complement this discussion with “The Technology Trap” and the Future of Work” with Dr Carl Frey and then listen to “Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman

By |October 31st, 2022|Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Future, Podcasts, Technology|

“Machines like Us: TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” with Professor Ronald Brachman

Machines Like us reviewed on Bridging the Gaps

There is a consensus among the researchers in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning that today’s artificial intelligence systems are narrowly focused, are designed to tackle specialised tasks and cannot operate in general settings. An important feature of the human brain that enables us to operate in general settings, and in unfamiliar situations is our common sense. In their new book “Machines like Us:
TOWARD AI WITH COMMON SENSE” Hector Levesque and Ronald Brachman explain “why current AI systems hopelessly lack common sense, why they desperately need it, and how they can get it”. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Ronald Brachman, one of the authors of this book. We discuss various topics covered in the book and explore the question, how we can create artificial intelligence with broad, robust common sense rather than narrow, specialised expertise.

Professor Ron Brachman is the director of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and is a professor of computer science at Cornell University. Previously, he was the Chief Scientist of Yahoo! and head of Yahoo! Labs. Prior to that, he was the Associate Head of Yahoo! Labs and Head of Worldwide Labs and Research Operations.

We start off with a detailed discussion about the progress that we have made in recent decades, in developing narrowly focused and task oriented artificial intelligence systems. Some of these systems outperform humans; however we do acknowledge and discuss the need for developing artificial intelligence systems that can operate in general settings. We discuss the concept of artificial general intelligence and explore how understanding “human common sense” and equipping AI with common sense is an extremely important milestone in our journey toward developing artificial general intelligence. We discuss the challenge of developing a clear and thorough understanding of the nature and working of human common sense. We explore how “common sense” might be modelled and incorporated in future artificial intelligence systems. We then discuss the future of artificial general intelligence.

Complement this discussion with Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans” with Professor Melanie Mitchell and with Artificial Intelligence: Fascinating Opportunities and Emerging Challenges with Professor Bart Selman and then listen to 2062: The World That AI Made” with Professor Toby Walsh