Big Tech touches nearly every part of our lives. From vacuuming massive amounts of information about our movements and collecting images of our faces, to dictating where gigwork drivers should go and pushing warehouse workers to fulfill orders, big tech is pervasive in its reach and pernicious in its effect. But workers, organizers, and scholars are pushing back. We are forming unions and organizing collectives with their colleagues. We are sounding the alarm on the ways these technologies exacerbate structural racism and abate the rise of global fascism. And we are starting to win.
In December of 2020 Google fired Timnit Gebru, the co-lead of their Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, after she refused to accept their attempted censorship of her co-authored article questioning the ethics and environmental impact of largescale AI language models. The termination sparked a new wave of organizing among Tech workers who quickly mobilized to defend Gebru against the corporate giant’s efforts to silence criticism of a key part of their business model. This organizing—following on the heels of the walk-outs against defense contracts and preceding this month’s announcement that Google workers have formed a union—offers important lessons about workers’ power within one of capitalism’s most profitable and important sectors.
Timnit Gebru, and other important scholars, activists, and organizers discuss how we resist the corporate power of the tech monopolies who have increasing levels of control over our day to day lives.
Dr. Timnit Gebru is a co-founder of Black in AI. She was Staff Research Scientist and Co-Lead of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence team at Google before being terminated for demanding an justification for Google’s censorship of her co-authored on article questioning the environmental and ethical implications of large-scale AI language models.
Dr. Alex Hanna is a sociologist and Senior Research Scientist on the Ethical AI team at Google. Her work centers on origins of the training data which form the informational infrastructure of AI and the way these datasets exacerbate racial, gender, and class inequality.
Charlton Mcilwain (@cmcilwain) is Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement & Development at New York University, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, and founder of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies.
Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Department of Information Studies where she serves as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She also holds appointments in African American Studies and Gender Studies. She is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.
Adrienne Williams is a former charter school junior high teacher and Amazon delivery driver, turned labor organizer. Her ultimate goal is to force the powerful to abide by the same laws as the working class, in hopes that equity will lead to freely organizing and advocating for self which will create a happier society.
Meredith Whittaker is a research professor at New York University, co-founder and faculty director of the AI Now Institute at NYU, and founder of Google’s Open Research group.