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LONDON — The U.K. competition regulator launched an investigation into the artificial intelligence industry, seeking to examine potential competition and consumer concerns as U.S. tech giants Microsoft and Google square off over the technology.
The probe will focus on “foundation models” like large language models and generative AI, such as those being developed by Microsoft-backed firm OpenAI.
Large language models are AI systems trained on huge amounts of data to understand human language and come up with humanlike responses to user inputs.
Generative AI refers to tools that let users create new content based on requests from internet users. For example, an AI chatbot may attempt to compose a sonnet in the style of William Shakespeare based on the training data they operate on.
These technologies have huge potential to make people more productive, reducing the time it takes to come up with simple copy for marketing purposes or event write code.
However, they have also caused alarm for regulators who are concerned by the rapid pace at which AI systems are being developed and what this means for the labor market.
In a statement Thursday, the Competition and Markets Authority said it will examine how the competitive landscape for foundation models and their use could evolve, explore the opportunities and risks such scenarios could bring, and release guiding principles to support competition and protect consumers as foundation models develop.
“AI has burst into the public consciousness over the past few months but has been on our radar for some time,” Sarah Cardell, the CEO of the CMA, said in a statement Thursday. “It’s a technology developing at speed and has the potential to transform the way businesses compete as well as drive substantial economic growth.”
“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,” she added. “Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection.”
The CMA said it will seek views and evidence from stakeholders until a June 2 deadline. Following this, the regulator will publish a report outlining its findings in September.
Last week, the regulator stunned the global tech world when it moved to block Microsoft’s acquisition of video game publisher Activision Blizzard. The move, which the CMA said was in response to concerns that it may limit competition in the cloud gaming market, sparked criticisms from the companies that it may set the U.K. back when it comes to tech.
The announcement by the CMA follows a request by the government to regulators to review how principles like safety, transparency and accountability are being incorporated into AI systems. In March, the government published a white paper setting out its approach for regulating the technology.
It also comes as other regulators are examining the risks posed by AI.
Earlier this week, White House VP Kamala Harris held meetings with Microsoft and Google and AI startups OpenAI and Anthropic to discuss the responsible development of AI.
U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, meanwhile, said the regulator is on alert for the ways that rapidly advancing AI could be used to violate antitrust and consumer protection laws.
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