This article outlines some current technical developments in artificial intelligence (AI) research within its historical, scientific and political context. In particular, It highlights the way in which changes to the technical mechanisms of AI systems have important political and philosophical implications. With the current ubiquity of AI systems for online shopping, web searching, mortgage applications, parole hearings or dating, the question of fairness has started to be taken seriously by the technical research community. This article explores the important ideological differences between systems that deal with tables of data which are basically types of spreadsheet, and those that deal with images. Rather than an isolated, specialised research community advancing incrementally, AI is a reflection of wider changing commercial practices — from missile targeting systems to Nintendo — and, if unwittingly, social epistemologies.