A reading club with a view to the future

016 Amy Webb: The Big Nine

The book explores the impact of artificial intelligence on society and argues that a small group of tech giants, called the “Big Nine”, hold the power to shape the future of humanity through AI.

Amy Webb: The Big Nine


The Big Nine (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) are shaping our world and their AI systems are becoming more and more advanced. The book argues that the Big Nine are in a position to monopolize AI and control its development, and that this poses significant risks to society. The author suggests ways in which we can regain control and make sure that AI serves the needs of humanity.


Title: The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity

Author: Amy Webb

Publishing Year: 2019

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Length in hours: 9 hours and 35 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. The Big Nine are leading the development of artificial intelligence and have the power to shape its future.
  2. AI has the potential to exacerbate inequality and social injustice.
  3. We need to democratize AI development and make sure that it serves the needs of all of society.
  4. AI poses risks to security and privacy.
  5. We need to be proactive in regulating AI development and use.
Amy Webb: The Big Nine

5 funny quotes

  1. "We need to be more like cats and less like dogs when it comes to AI. Dogs are always happy to please, while cats are more selective in their affections."
  2. "Artificial intelligence is like a toddler with a loaded gun. It's not malicious, but it doesn't understand the consequences of its actions."
  3. "AI is like the weather: everyone talks about it, but nobody does anything about it."
  4. "If AI were a person, it would be a hyper-intelligent toddler with ADHD and a mean streak."
  5. "I don't know what the future holds, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve a lot of robots."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The future we're racing toward -- artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics -- demands more than a passive observance or even active engagement; it demands new lenses through which to view the world."
  2. "The problem isn't that we're introducing AI into society; it's that we're not introducing it fast enough."
  3. "The biggest threat facing humanity today is not climate change or terrorism; it's the potential for AI to upend society as we know it."
  4. "There's no need to fear AI, but we do need to fear the people who are building and deploying it without sufficient safeguards and ethical considerations."
  5. "The Big Nine aren't just technology companies; they're geopolitical players that are helping to shape the future of humanity."

5 dilemmas

  1. How do we balance the benefits of AI with the potential risks, such as job loss, privacy violations, and discrimination?
  2. How do we ensure that AI systems are transparent and accountable, and that humans can override their decisions when necessary?
  3. How do we prevent the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a small number of companies and individuals who control the most advanced AI systems?
  4. How do we ensure that AI is used for the greater good, rather than for narrow corporate interests or military purposes?
  5. How do we prepare society for the disruptive and transformative effects of AI, and ensure that everyone benefits from its advancements, not just the wealthiest and most powerful?

5 examples

  1. Amazon's facial recognition software, Rekognition, has been shown to have racial bias and has been used by law enforcement agencies to target people of color.
  2. Google's search algorithms can influence the outcome of elections and shape public opinion.
  3. Facebook's news feed algorithm can create filter bubbles that reinforce people's existing beliefs and political biases.
  4. Tesla's self-driving car technology has been involved in several high-profile accidents, raising questions about the safety and reliability of autonomous vehicles.
  5. IBM's Watson AI was originally designed to diagnose and treat cancer, but has been criticized for giving inaccurate and potentially harmful recommendations to doctors.

Referenced books

  1. "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom - Referenced to explore the risks and challenges associated with the development of artificial superintelligence.
  2. "The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World" by Pedro Domingos - Quoted to discuss different approaches to machine learning and their implications.
  3. "Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" by Max Tegmark - Discussed to delve into the societal and ethical considerations surrounding artificial intelligence.
  4. "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" by Yuval Noah Harari - Referenced for its exploration of the future of humanity in the context of technological advancements.
  5. "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power" by Shoshana Zuboff - Cited to examine the intersection of AI, data, and surveillance capitalism.

Share a quote

"If AI were a person, it would be a hyper-intelligent toddler with ADHD and a mean streak."

Amy Webb: The Big Nine
Become a NextBook Insider

Join our community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.