Big Tech corporations and AI: A Social License to Operate and Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships in the Digital Age

In Francesca Mazzi & Luciano Floridi (eds.), The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence for the Sustainable Development Goals. Springer Verlag. pp. 231–249 (2023)
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The pervasiveness of AI-empowered technologies across multiple sectors has led to drastic changes concerning traditional social practices and how we relate to one another. Moreover, market-driven Big Tech corporations are now entering public domains, and concerns have been raised that they may even influence public agenda and research. Therefore, this chapter focuses on assessing and evaluating what kind of business model is desirable to incentivise the AI for Social Good (AI4SG) factors. In particular, the chapter explores the implications of this discourse for SDG #17 (global partnership) and how this goal may encourage Big Tech corporations to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships that promote effective public-private and civil society partnerships and the meaningful co-presence of non-market and market values. In doing so, the chapter proposes an analysis of the sociological notion of "social license to operate" (SLO) elaborated in the mining and extractive industry literature and introduces it into the discourse on sustainable digital business models and responsible management of risks in the digital age. This serves to explore how such a social license can be adopted as a practice by digital business models to foster trust, collaboration and coordination among different actors - AI researchers and initiatives, institutions and civil society at large - for the support of SDGs interrelated targets and goals.

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