Posted by Tina
The man who pioneered Artificial Intelligence, Yoshua Bengio, has issued a warning and a call to break up the big tech companies:
Yoshua Bengio, the artificial intelligence pioneer, says the centralization of wealth, power and capability in Big Tech is “dangerous for democracy” and that the companies should be broken up.
Why it matters: Bengio is a professor at the University of Montreal and a member of the three-man “Canadian Mafia” that pioneered machine learning, the leading method used in AI. His remarks are notable because of his influence in the AI community and because he or his peers all either directly lead or consult for Big Tech’s AI programs. Says Bengio: “Concentration of wealth leads to concentration of power. That’s one reason why monopoly is dangerous. It’s dangerous for democracy.
I’m willing to consider what this gentleman has to say. We broke up Ma Bell. But that was after it had driven all competition from the marketplace with the help of government regulation and a bit of crony capitalism:
Author R.H.K. Vietor, writing in Contrived Competition, said, “Vail chose at this time to put AT&T squarely behind government regulation, as the quid pro quo for avoiding competition. This was the only politically acceptable way for AT&T to monopolize telephony.” In fact, without government regulations eliminating the competition, the reinstitution of the AT&T monopoly would have been impossible. The Kingsbury Commitment (named for one of Vail’s employees) was an agreement with the Attorney General and the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1913 that essentially codified the playing field which allowed AT&T to regain monopoly control of the industry. In 1934, the power to regulate the telephone industry under the ICC was transferred to the new Federal Communications Commission. Enacted by the Roosevelt Revolution during the Great Depression…
What followed after the break up of ATT was the creation of new companies and an explosion of innovation and jobs:
As author Tara Seals notes: “Ma Bell gave birth to seven regional Baby Bells in 1984, and the good news is that an era of competitive innovation began that eclipsed the sum total of the previous 108 years since Alexander Graham Bell completed the first telephone call [including]: mobile wireless voice, fiber optics, microprocessors, IPTV and IP video, VoIP, back office and equipment vendor landscapes that are light-years ahead, Wi-Fi, increasing demand for wireless broadband, and mobile broadband services and products like the new IPad from Apple.”
And, as you might have noticed, the break up hasn’t hurt ATT one bit. AT&T had “$150 billion in assets, $70 billion in revenues, and a million employees” at the time of the breakup. Today it’s valued at an estimated $180 billion. See more here.
In 2016 Apple has it’s competitors beat according to Forbes with “the highest revenue ($233 billion), profit ($53 billion), assets ($239 billion) and market cap ($586 billion)…” Apple is the biggest tech company in the world.
The concentration of wealth and power in companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and others is seen as dangerous by some because of the concentration of wealth and power. But there are those who say Apple is not a monopoly. I can’t argue with that either; clearly there’s competition in the marketplace.
It may be that regulations and high corporate tax rates have created middle class worries. If the US enacted a corporate tax rate of 15% those cash rich high tech companies would have incentive to bring their high tech billions back to America. It seems to me that would do more for the middle class than breaking up the companies. The investment in America through jobs created and innovation would make the concentration of wealth seem a lot less menacing.
Or…is it the robots that have people worried?