UK competition watchdog has ‘genuine concerns’ over big tech AI dominance

  • By Chris Vallance
  • Technology reporter, BBC News
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image source, Getty Images

Big tech’s dominance of the fast-growing artificial intelligence (AI) market is a matter of “real concern”, the competition regulator has warned.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is exploring a new generation of powerful AI tools – foundation models.

These include text and image generators, such as ChatGPT.

CMA found an “interconnected web” of AI partnerships that includes the same firms: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, and chip maker Nvidia.

“We were curious when we started this work. Now, with a deeper understanding and having seen developments much more closely, we have real concerns,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA.

“The essential challenge we face is how to harness this exciting technology for the benefit of all, while guarding against the potential abuse of market power and unintended consequences.”

A small number of existing technology firms – already powerful in the most important digital markets – are also now moving forward with foundation models, the CMA said.

Trained on vast amounts of data, they underpin tools that are transforming workplaces and other aspects of modern life.

Big tech firms have strong positions in terms of computing power, and access to skilled employees, and can influence market access through apps and platforms, the CMA said.

This can have a profound impact on fair competition, “ultimately harming businesses and consumers, for example through reduced choice, lower quality, and higher prices, as well as potentially unprecedented innovation and broader economic benefit flows from AI.” preventing”, the CMA argued.

The key moment

The CMA said it wanted to learn from previous experience of digital markets where “winner takes all dynamics” led to the rise of a small number of powerful platforms.

It said it was “committed to applying the lessons of history” to what it called “a pivotal moment in the emergence of a new, potentially transformative technology.”

In a new paper, he found more than 90 connected investments and partnerships involving an equally small number of tech giants.

The watchdog is already scrutinizing Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar partnership with OpenAI.

But he said he recognized the “huge wealth of resources, expertise and innovation that these large firms can bring to bear”.

However, they should not “catch up” with powerful firms from the competition.

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