This blog is part of our Tech In Review: 21-22 report series. Head to the hub to access the reports, insight and analysis.
The technology sector changes so rapidly that it can be hard to see the significance of a development after it gets lost in the new cycle. The end of the year provides an opportunity to look back and use the benefit of hindsight to consider how different developments contributed to the changing technology landscape.
Our Tech In Review: 21-22 Year Review & Outlook report provides more detail and analysis of 2021, but here we share five of the big moments that shaped tech this year.
Google Fires Margaret Mitchell
Just two months after the departure of Timnit Gebru, another leading figure on Google’s AI ethics team left the company. Google said Mitchell violated the company’s code of conduct and security policies by moving electronic files while Gebru said Google fired her after she questioned an order not to publish a paper claiming AI that mimics language could hurt marginalized populations. The incident raised further questions about how open Big Tech is to criticism of how AI might impact society, and public transparency about the algorithms that increasingly run our lives.
Jeff Bezos announces he will resign as CEO of Amazon
Jeff Bezos is one of the last FAANG founders to move on from the role of CEO, with only Facebook and Netflix. The move demonstrated that Amazon had evolved, leaving Bezos’ successor to maintain the momentum and vision he spent two decades building. It also leaves the founder free to focus on the big visions and long-term strategy, without getting caught up in day to day operations or execution of the business. This shift to a big-picture decision-making is the next step in the trajectory of a tech founder who has re-defined entire sectors of the economy.
Facebook and Australia battle over news
Early in the year, a row over proposed legislation on news content escalated and for a brief stint Facebook blocked Australians from viewing news on the platform. This was just one flash point in ongoing discussions around the globe about how to reign in the power of Big Tech, and Facebook seemed to really misplay its hand and was forced to rapidly backtrack on its move.
Epic Vs Apple sets up the stage for the next generation of battles
Epic Games filed an EU antitrust complaint against Apple early in the year as part of an ongoing and escalating battle over App Store selling. This is a case in point for one of our main emerging themes of the year. As the economy and society become more focussed around platforms, companies which increasingly rely on them to access customers will fight harder for access and control.
The EU Commission proposes its new rules on AI
2021 has been the year that regulators around the world began putting pen to paper in their efforts to regulate AI. The EU set out its proposed approach in April, focussing on categorising developments before their happen – essentially controlling the inputs not the outputs. The UK also outlined its key considerations, with a more detailed proposal expected in 2022. The challenge for regulators is how they can ensure they’re using as much carrot as stick, and not stifling innovation in the wake of more liberal regulatory regimes in the US and China.