A.I. Pioneer Says Tech Monopolies Are ‘Dangerous for Democracy’

Google is increasingly similar to Big Brother's Oceania in 1984
Jeremie Lederman/ledermanstudio.com

Speaking to Axios at a Toronto artificial intelligence conference, Yoshua Bengio warned against the concentration of money and power in Silicon Valley.

University of Montreal professor Yoshua Bengio is one of three members of what they have self-titled the “deep learning conspiracy.” This “Canadian Mafia” of artificial intelligence visionaries is largely responsible for the tech industry’s leap into machine learning.

Bengio and his colleagues consult for the companies to which he is referring: Bengio for IBM, with Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun for Google and Facebook, respectively. Apple’s AI research is led by Hinton’s protege Ruslan Salakhutdinov. These are the companies that can use AI to create even better AI, embarrass China at their oldest game, police Twitter, or give your next iPhone a brain.

In responding to a question from an Axios reporter as to whether the tech giants should be broken up, Bengio openly scoffed. With their power and resources only looking to increase, he wants anti-trust laws to be enforced, saying that “governments have become so meek in front of companies.”

Bengio believes that we must “create a more level playing field for people and companies,” though “AI is a technology that naturally lends itself to a winner take all.” Because of that, he says that dominant powers will become increasingly difficult to compete with, leading to technological hegemony:

The country and company that dominates the technology will gain more power with time. More data and a larger customer base gives you an advantage that is hard to dislodge. Scientists want to go to the best places. The company with the best research labs will attract the best talent. It becomes a concentration of wealth and power.

But Bengio does not want to see people discouraged from innovation by the prospect of an industry that systematically destroys its competition. His prescription is a simple one: “Don’t despair — fight.”

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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