It was inevitable, I suppose, that we wouldn’t get to the end of a week, at the end of 2023, without AI rearing its head all over the news. This week it’s combined with what you will know by now is one of my very favourite topics: European Union legislation.
This week the EU’s AI Bill begins the last stages of the process that will see it become law. But while the process is nearing an end, the battle over the future regulation of AI is raging as strongly as ever. Perhaps even more so in the wake of the OpenAI fiasco that ended with Sam Altman’s position strengthened and laid down a marker on behalf of the tech industry. Add to that the damp squib AI Safety Summit in the UK and we have a landscape where it feels like governments and regulation are in full-on retreat in the face of big business.
And that’s a real problem, because compared to tech companies our business just isn’t big enough to fight back in the lobbying stakes. And that’s the battle that’s playing out. Tech companies are fighting back against measures in the act that would allow outside bodies to inspect the way that giant firms train huge, data intensive generative AI platforms, the kind that use our words and pictures to generate images and sentences for users, and giant profits for their parent companies.
The Publishing Industry's Response
It seems as though this level of scrutiny will be downgraded to self-regulation. And the publishing industry in Europe has hit back. A letter led by key players in the Italian publishing industry begs legislators to retain demands for transparency from big tech. It emphasises not only the rights of creators like us but also the dangers of misinformation and bias when AI is trained without sufficient scrutiny or checks. It’s a powerful letter, but like so much of the response to what is seen as the threat of AI, it lacks a single existential issue onto which to latch, giving the impression that it is throwing arguments at the wall and hoping one will stick. Add that to the vast disparity in the size of our relative industries, and it feels as though we are witnessing the next in a long line of eloquent failures to turn a tide.
I will, no doubt, be updating this story one way or another very shortly!