Monopoly Power Is the Elephant in the Room in the AI Debate:
Should we be worried about a handful of incumbents controlling AI? There is plenty of evidence to show that market concentration undermines innovation, reduces investment, and harms consumers and workers. This is especially true in digital markets – from search engines and app stores to e-commerce and digital advertising – where a few corporations have gained so much power that they are able to extract value from and impose terms on everyone in their orbit, while having a disproportionate say over the information we consume and the ways in which we communicate.
That includes the exploitative tolls Amazon, Apple and Google are able to impose on the traders and developers dependent on their online superstores, the role of a few huge social media platforms in disseminating disinformation and fueling polarization, and the hollowing out of the media industry as a result of the tech giants’ digital advertising monopoly. These monopolistic abuses are not only bad in economic terms, but also bear significant responsibility for the perilous state our democracies find themselves in today.
The article then goes on to suggest that, left to their own devices, the tech giants will do the same thing with large language models and other forms of predictive computing, with effects just as damaging to the fabric of our society as their exploits with media and social platforms.
I think that is a reasonable prediction, but the question is what to do about it.
Everyone seems very enthusiastic about the prospects for these technologies, if only we could figure out how to pry them out of the hands of the monopolistic tech giants. The problem is that these systems require immense amounts compute and storage infrastructure—and that is before we even get to the research and development costs—and the money for that needs to come from somewhere.
If you want this technology, then you need to figure out some way to pay for it.