Liberty, equality, fraternity, not AI

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Liberty, equality, fraternity, not AI


Kim Byoung-pil
The author is a professor of technology management at Kaist.

Lately, people say that platform giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook need to be broken apart. While there are legal disputes, the basis seems to be the fear that these platforms are too powerful and dominate our lives. People earned their freedom through civil revolutions in the 17th and 18th centuries. As those platforms become more influential, you can hardly leave them alone, pundits say.

The dominance of platform giants can possibly be repeated in the artificial intelligence (AI) field as well. Google and Amazon are competing to provide AI services. There are many merits to these services.

As AI learning requires enormous calculation, it is more efficient to utilize platforms optimized for AI learning rather than each company building its own AI server. It is similar to the efficiency of being supplied electricity from a power plant rather than each company installing its own small generator.

The competition of different AI platforms reminded me of the war of currents between Tesla and Edison. While the alternate current (AC) versus direct current (DC) feud ended in a victory for AC, the AI platform competition is ongoing. AI platforms are developing GUI to enable the application of AI technology and AutoML, automated machine learning. Soon, we will be able to use AI just as easily as we use word processors. When global platform giants provide better user environments and functions based on their superior technology, AI will be more widely used.

What’s so wrong with that? If you think about it, it is not so simple.

When AI is used across all industries, AI technology will soon be a requirement in corporate management. Just as a factory cannot operate without electricity or water, it may become impossible to run a business without AI. If AI technology belongs to a certain company, it could be a considerable threat to national security.

Also, AI service providers will acquire a lot of information about the companies that use their services. In other words, AI platforms can easily monitor which company utilizes which AI technology and how much.


Bionic limbs produced by M Robotics on display during the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas on June 5, 2019. [AFP/YONHAP]

Such information will be useful when making management or investment decisions. In fact, Amazon is said to be using information acquired from its cloud service AWS in decision-making for investment. Therefore, such concerns are not groundless.

Some say AI technology is like electricity for 21st century industries. As stable supply of electricity was a key element for industrial development, allowing all companies to handily use quality AI platforms is an important task in the fourth industrial revolution. Therefore, we need to preemptively make sure that AI platforms are not subordinate to particular industry giants. This is my thought as I watch the controversy over braking up platforms companies in the United States.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 19, Page 27
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