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Are discussions of the Big 5 ethnocentric?

It is increasingly common to read/hear references to the Big Five (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) as the entities shaping our virtual experiences, and perhaps the trajectory of human development. But why are Alibaba and Tencent not included in this conversation?

This Digital Asia Hub piece provides a valuable corrective:

The attributes, connections, and behaviors we capture in our data — and how we model them — shape what our AIs value, and how they behave, i.e., their culture. Our culture, to the extent we model it (or don’t) shapes the cultures of our AIs, which in turn increasingly and pervasively shape the world in which we think, interact, and live. This means that our data and their AIs are fundamentally not so much technological as they are cultural products. They are not technologically neutral, but inherently and ineluctably cultural. Our conversations, our policies, and our designs of our AIs – and the data and models they feed on – needs to recognize this.

Finally, to the extent that our data and AIs are cultural products, they are – as we reasoned earlier – prone more to diverge than converge. If China, as lead leapfrogger, has set a precedent for open-ended, divergent cultural innovation, then we can expect to see a diversity of cultural practices emerge. And in turn, as these practices are respectively modeled and captured, we begin to accumulate diverse and divergent pools of data – that then undergo algorithmization and develop into diverse and divergent AIs. What begins to emerge in this extrapolated imagination is a veritable ethnodiversity, not a mono-deity, of AI values and behavior – a world that is more Babel bazaar than SkyNet singularity.


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