How to Open the Door for Fair AI Competition: A Q and A With FTC Chair Lina Khan

It’s not just a matter of best-sellers in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), but also of preventing anti-competitive outcomes. At a recent StrictlyVC event in Washington, DC, Lina Khan, chair of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), revealed much about the agency’s approach to level the playing field. The push is to keep the arteries of commerce open, especially for startups willing to take a risk on competing with the AI crowd.

Keeping OPEN Commerce Channels in the AI Age

The crux of Khan’s message was this: far from seeking to deliberately strangle nascent start-ups with stifling red tape, the FTC was committed to ‘keeping the deep ditch’, that is, the ‘pathways of commerce open’. Khan stressed that the Commission was determined to let startups ‘with good ideas’ get a ‘fair shot at competing’. The idea was to make sure that ‘success flows to [the] coolest idea’, rather than an ability to finagle around the ‘big guys’.

The FTC's Watchful Eye on OPEN AI

So, even as it carves out a space for this openness, the FTC is also well aware of many of the risks and dangers that Covid-19-fueled and post-Covid-19 AI technology will bring. Consumers are also increasingly complaining about cases of voice-cloning fraud, such as an AI version of Scarlett Johansson’s voice created recently by OpenAI.

Exploring Every Layer of OPEN AI

And after much work during Khan’s tenure, the agency has jurisdiction over the whole ecosystem. ‘We’re looking left and right and across the stack,’ Khan told me when I asked where the FTC’s jurisdiction lay. ‘It’s not just the chips and the cloud and the AI models. It’s the apps that are being built.’ ‘I’m trying to help us think about this stuff in a holistic way.’

The Challenge of Policing AI

And yet, even with a technically savvy team, placing bets on next-generation AI is tricky, Khan admits: ‘I can’t even phone the whole AI landscape, we have a smaller workforce than in the 1980s, and the economy is 100 times bigger than it used to be. So in some cases, we have to make a statement like “we’re going to have a voice-cloning challenge” to crowdsource the general public.’

Pushing for True OPENNESS in AI

Another promising area of focus for Khan’s FTC is how to enforce whether so-called open AI platforms are as open as they seem. ‘We talked about what open really means,’ he tells me. ‘You don’t want to have open first, closed later. That’s how the Web 2.0 cycle played out.’

Beyond AI Hype and Deceptive Advertising

Likewise, the FTC has its eye on AI featured in deceptive advertising, an issue that has gained urgency in recent years as ‘AI’ tools flood the market, promising more than they deliver. Khan insists on policing misleading marketing so as to ‘enforce trust’ in consumers and ensure the AI marketplace’s growth is legitimate.

Conclusion: Balancing Innovation with Integrity

Lina Khan ultimately sees what she calls an enduring vision of ‘delicately balanced innovation’ – an antitrust environment where startups can rise alongside giants, every player is judged on the strength of their ideas, and consumer welfare remains paramount. This future will be shaped as much by the technology as the law. And if the FTC is successful in fostering this environment while reigning in its excesses, the world will be a better, more balanced place.

Understanding OPENNESS in the Context of AI

This means that openness in AI means that AI platforms and technologies are available and understood. Openness in AI means that advancements in AI are shared so that tools and resources can be made accessible to different communities as a way to foster experimentation, collaboration and ethical use of AI technologies. In so doing, openness not only move technology forward, but also ensure that AI technologies will be used by as many people in society and that all American consumers will share equally in the bounty of the FTC’s continual effort to keep the arteries of commerce open for all.

Jun 12, 2024
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