Preventing AI from following the same path as surveillance capitalism

06/11/2023 | Financial Times

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making headlines following last week's global AI safety summit in the UK and the new US executive order from the White House. While much of the discussion has focused on existential threats posed by AI, less focus has been given to the very real problem concerning the impact of AI on the economy.

The Financial Times article addresses specific concerns about how AI will exacerbate the problems of surveillance capitalism, where large tech companies control and monetise user data and attention to extract a disproportionate economic cost. Despite antitrust actions in the US and Europe, there has been little progress in addressing this issue, largely due to a lack of understanding among regulators.

This is partly due to the mechanisms by which platforms measure and manage user attention being poorly understood. The metrics used by digital platforms to monetise attention include the number of users, time spent on a site, purchase behaviour, organic clicks vs ad clicks, traffic sent to outside sites, the volume of commerce in an industry, and the percentage of fees paid to third-party sellers. However, these are all secret, proprietary information. Instead, companies report traditional financial metrics publicly, leading to opacity and obfuscation in how the business operates. 

The issue is set to become even more complex when it comes to large language models and generative AI. The author suggests requiring AI developers to reveal the metrics as part of a public disclosure scheme to support effective regulation.

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