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Screenshot via TurboTax

This year's Super Bowl ads highlighted how torn society is over the promise of Big Tech. Some spots showed dystopian fears surrounding robots and automation, while others highlighted ways new technologies can improve health care, employment and connectivity.

Why it matters: The conflicting messages underscore the debate happening right now about whether automation and artificial intelligence will displace humanity or save it.

  • On one side, ads from TurboTax, Michelob Ultra and Pringles showed ways robots and voice assistants can't compete with human intelligence and emotion. Even Amazon ran a lengthy ad poking fun at the hiccups from its Alexa voice assistant.
  • On the other, tech companies like Google and Microsoft tried to showcase their human side with ads highlighting ways their companies aid veterans and children with disabilities.

There was also an irony in the millions of dollars spent on ads by streaming video companies. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube TV all purchased spots Sunday, serving as a reminder that traditional television — and particularly the Super Bowl — is still considered the top destination for high-level branding.

Another major theme this year was the power of female protagonists. Bumble, Toyota, Wix, Amazon Prime and Hulu all ran ads showing the power of women in sports, in the workplace, and in society.

Some companies got dinged on social media for their ads:

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev drew ire from corn advocates and farmers for a series of ads that dismissed using corn syrup in beer.
  • Verizon drew some online criticism for its ad lauding first responders, which didn't mention that the company throttled data for first responders in California in August.
  • T-Mobile took Twitter heat for ripping off an old internet meme.

Noticeably absent from the game this year was Coca-Cola, despite the fact that the Super Bowl took place in its backyard. The Atlanta-based beverage company ran a simple animated ad before kickoff, but let Pepsi take the spotlight this year with several spots and its usual half-time show.

Go deeper: Pricing plateaus for this year's Super Bowl ads

Go deeper

Biden pushes massive economic plan despite "stalemate"

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday urged congressional Democrats to overcome differences surrounding his multi-trillion-dollar economic proposal but said he's still confident it will pass.

Why it matters: It's currently unclear how the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package will move forward with moderate and progressive Democrats in disagreement over critical portions of the legislation.

"An embarrassment": Biden condemns Border Patrol for using horses to deter Haitian migrants

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday condemned Border Patrol officers for using horses to deter Haitian immigrants from an encampment under the international bridge earlier this week but took responsibility for the actions and said an investigation is underway.

Why it matters: Photos of patrol officers charging their horses at immigrants prompted criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

Senate GOP pushes DOJ to roll back Trump oversight rule

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Republicans want the Justice Department to roll back Trump-era restrictions on congressional oversight criticized at the time as an attempt to insulate the Trump administration from Democratic investigators, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: While some Republicans spoke out against the DOJ guidance at the time, it was mostly Democrats who attacked it as a constitutionally dubious effort to scuttle congressional oversight. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the GOP is making similar arguments with Biden in the White House.