OpenAI Clarifies What “Regulate” Means to the Sillycon Valley Crowd

May 25, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Sam AI-man begged (at least he did not get on his hands and knees) the US Congress to regulate artificial intelligence (whatever that means). I just read “Sam Altman Says OpenAI Will Leave the EU if There’s Any Real AI Regulation.” I know I am old. I know I lose my car keys a couple of times every 24 hours. I do recall Mr. AI-man wanted regulation.

However, the write up reports:

Though unlike in the AI-friendly U.S., Altman has threatened to take his big tech toys to the other end of the sandbox if they’re not willing to play by his rules.

The vibes of the Zuckster zip through my mind. Facebook just chugs along, pays fines, and mostly ignores regulators. China seems to be an exception for Facebook, the Google, and some companies I don’t know about. China had a mobile death-mobile. A person accused and convicted would be executed in the mobile death van as soon as it arrived at the location where the convicted bad actor was. Re-education camps and mobile death-mobiles suggest that some US companies choose to exit China. Lawyers who have to arrive quickly or their client has been processed are not much good in some of China’s efficient state machines. Fines, however, are okay. Write a check and move on.

Mr. AI-man is making clear that the word “regulate” means one thing to Mr. AI-man and another thing to those who are not getting with the smart software program. The write up states:

Altman said he didn’t want any regulation that restricted users’ access to the tech. He told his London audience he didn’t want anything that could harm smaller companies or the open source AI movement (as a reminder, OpenAI is decidedly more closed off as a company than it’s ever been, citing “competition”). That’s not to mention any new regulation would inherently benefit OpenAI, so when things inevitably go wrong it can point to the law to say they were doing everything they needed to do.

I think “regulate” means what the declining US fast food outfit who told me “have it your way” meant. The burger joint put in a paper bag whatever the professionals behind the counter wanted to deliver. Mr. AI-man doesn’t want any “behind the counter” decision making by a regulatory cafeteria serving up its own version of lunch.

Mr. AI-man wants “regulate” to mean his way.

In the US, it seems, that is exactly what big tech and promising venture funded outfits are going to get; that is, whatever each company wants. Competition is good. See how well OpenAI and Microsoft are competing with Facebook and Google. Regulate appears to mean “let us do what we want to do.”

I am probably wrong. OpenAI, Google, and other leaders in smart software are at this very moment consuming the Harvard Library of books to read in search of information about ethical behavior. The “moral” learning comes later.

Net net: Now I understand the new denotation of “regulate.” Governments work for US high-tech firms. Thus, I think the French term laissez-faire nails it.

Stephen E Arnold, May 25, 2023


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