Antitrust action could doom U.S. in AI race, Hong Kong academic argues
Any antitrust investigations by the U.S. government of Google, Facebook, and Amazon could have unintended consequences, including stifling the ability of American tech companies to compete against Chinese counterparts, the Nikkei Asian Review warns.
U.S. antitrust considerations have typically been guided by consumer prices, according to the editorial by University of Hong Kong Faculty of Business and Economics Senior Lecturer David S. Lee, but as tech giants have drawn legislator and regulator attention, impacts on wage equality, and data privacy, as well as sheer size, are being weighed as motivation for action.
Lee argues that data is the fuel for AI, which is the engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and that the scale of data necessary to keep the engine running can only be collected at scale. This means, according to Lee, that shrinking or forcing the break-up of large U.S. tech companies will cede an advantage to Chinese companies.
Privacy is considered differently in mainland China than elsewhere, Lee says, and trade-offs of data privacy for convenience give Chinese internet users “super apps” from providers like Alibaba and Meituan that both make things convenient for consumers, and provide a wealth of digital data. If U.S. authorities make it harder for domestic companies to access data, the advantages held by Chinese companies will only increase, and in the future such actions could be seen as why America “lost the war for artificial intelligence,” according to Lee.
Several datasets, which were provided to but not by major corporations from the U.S. and around the world, were recently taken offline due to privacy concerns.