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The Big Nine: How Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity is a book by futurist and professor Amy Webb that examines the potential risks and implications of artificial intelligence (AI) as it becomes increasingly integrated into our lives. The book identifies nine major players in the AI industry that Webb refers to as the “Big Nine.” These companies include Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Apple, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

Amy the octopus

Amy Webb is a futurist, professor, and founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading foresight and strategy firm. She is a renowned speaker on emerging technology and its impact on society, and her work has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company. In addition to “The Big Nine,” Webb has authored several books on technology and its impact on society, including “Data, A Love Story” and “The Signals Are Talking.” She is also a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, where she teaches a course on strategic foresight. We met her multiple times at the SXSW festival in Austin.

Danger ahead

Amy Webb argues in her book, that the power and influence of these companies, combined with the capabilities of AI, pose a significant threat to society. As these tech giants continue to expand their reach and develop increasingly advanced AI systems, they could potentially control every aspect of our lives, from the information we consume to the decisions we make. This could lead to a world where the interests of a handful of companies supersede those of individuals and even governments.

The book raises important questions about the role of AI in society ‘(and this well before ChatGPT!!) and the ethical considerations that must be taken into account as we continue to integrate this technology into our lives. It calls for a more open and transparent approach to AI development, where individuals and communities have a greater say in the direction and applications of these technologies.

Keep it on a tight leash

The current trajectory of AI development is unsustainable and could have disastrous consequences if left unchecked. Policymakers, industry leaders, and individuals are to take a proactive approach to AI governance and regulation, to ensure that the development and deployment of these technologies align with the best interests of society. Webb calls for greater transparency and accountability in AI development and sends a clear warning of the potential dangers of unchecked AI growth.  Individuals and institutions and ethici should take a more active role in shaping the future of this technology.