The UK’s competitions watchdog has launched a review of artificial intelligence models following the government’s AI whitepaper published in March.

The CMA is opening an initial review of competition and consumer protection considerations in the development and use of AI foundation models.

These foundation models – including large language models and generative artificial intelligence which have emerged over the past five years – have the potential to transform much of what people and businesses do. 

Amid the popularity of Open AI’s ChatGPT tool – capable of writing impressive copy and code in response to simple commands – more and more businesses are looking to harness the power of automation. 

However the increasing adoption has led to concerns over whether AI trained upon a narrow cross-section of society could lead to inherent biases – for example in the assessment of the worthiness of loan or mortgage applications – as well as the future risks it could pose to people’s privacy, human rights and safety. 

The whitepaper aimed to empower existing regulators – including the CMA as well as the Health and Safety Executive, and Equality and Human Rights Commission – to come up with tailored, context-specific approaches that suit the way AI is being used in their sectors.

The five principles outlined are safety, security and robustness; transparency and explainability; fairness; accountability and governance; and contestability and redress. The latter says people need clear routes to dispute harmful outcomes or decisions generated by AI.

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In response, the CMA’s review seeks to understand how foundation models are developing; produce an assessment of the conditions and principles that will best guide the development of foundation models and their use in the future; and most importantly consider the likely implications of their development for competition and consumer protection.

AI already contributes £3.7 billion to the UK economy, says the government, with more than 50,000 people employed in an industry which boasts twice the number of companies of any other European country.

“AI has burst into the public consciousness over the past few months but has been on our radar for some time,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA. 

“It’s a technology developing at speed and has the potential to transform the way businesses compete as well as drive substantial economic growth.

“It’s crucial that the potential benefits of this transformative technology are readily accessible to UK businesses and consumers while people remain protected from issues like false or misleading information. Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection.”

The CMA is seeking views and evidence from stakeholders and welcomes submissions by 2nd June 2023. 

Following evidence gathering and analysis, the CMA will publish a report which sets out its findings in September 2023.

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