How Big Tech Is Killing Innovation

(Originally published by The New York Times on June 13, 2024)

Silicon Valley prides itself on disruption: Start-ups develop new technologies, upend existing markets and overtake incumbents. This cycle of creative destruction brought us the personal computer, the internet and the smartphone. But in recent years, a handful of incumbent tech companies have sustained their dominance. Why? We believe they have learned how to co-opt potentially disruptive start-ups before they can become competitive threats.

From left to right: A headshot of Professor Mark Lemley and a separate headshot of Professor Orly Lobel. Both are smiling and wearing dark suit jackets
Professor Mark Lemley

Just look at what’s happening to the leading companies in generative artificial intelligence.

DeepMind, one of the first prominent A.I. start-ups, was acquired by Google. OpenAI, founded as a nonprofit and counterweight to Google’s dominance, has raised $13 billion from Microsoft. Anthropic, a start-up founded by OpenAI engineers who grew wary of Microsoft’s influence, has raised $4 billion from Amazon and $2 billion from Google.

(Continue reading the opinion essay on The New York Times’ page here.)

Mark Lemley is the William H. Neukom Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and the Director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and is affiliated faculty in the Symbolic Systems program.