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UK competition regulator launches review of AI market

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an initial review into the market for artificial intelligence systems, looking at the underlying foundational large language models that power chatbots such as ChatGPT alongside the opportunities and risks that AI could present.

In a statement announcing the review, the regulatory body outlined three key areas it will examine: how the competitive markets for foundational models and their use could evolve; the opportunities and risks these scenarios could bring for competition and consumer protection; and what guiding principles should be introduced to support competition and protect consumers as AI models develop.

The CMA added that the review is in line with the UK government’s aim to support “open, competitive markets,” as outlined in a white paper published in March.

“It’s crucial that the potential benefits of this transformative technology are readily accessible to UK businesses and consumers while people remain protected from issues like false or misleading information,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, in comments published alongside the announcement. “Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection.”

As the CMA is carrying out this investigation under its general powers to keep markets under review, the likely immediate outcome of the investigation will be more about the CMA getting a better understanding as to how AI is impacting on technological development, rather than taking any enforcement action against individual companies, said Alex Haffner, competition partner at London law firm Fladgate.

“That said, viewed against a background in which the CMA is being given ever greater powers to investigate and hold Big Tech to account, this announcement only serves to reinforce the notion that CMA is determined to use those powers as broadly as it can,” Haffner added.

The UK government was also warned this week about the widespread impact AI could have on the workforce, with the UK’s outgoing chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, telling members of Parliament on the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee that the government needs to act to stop widespread job losses.

“There will be a big impact on jobs and that impact could be as big as the Industrial Revolution was,” Vallance said. “There will be jobs that can be done by AI, which can either mean a lot of people don’t have a job, or a lot of people have jobs that only a human could do.”

He also said that despite the opportunities the technology presented, the most immediate threat posed by AI was that it could “distort the perception of truth.”

The interventions come in the same week the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairperson, Lina Khan, wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times that the agency was concerned that generative AI’s ability to write in conversational English could be used to help scammers be more effective, but that the agency was committed to using existing laws to rein in some of the dangers of artificial intelligence.

A request for views and evidence from stakeholders before June 2 has also been put out by the CMA, with a report based on those findings due to be published in September of this year.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

This story originally appeared on Computerworld

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