AI Companies Must Rethink How They Pay For Data, Lanier says
Technology pioneer Jaron Lanier says AI companies should work to determine which individuals contributed the most useful data to their artificial intelligence systems
Some prominent figures in Silicon Valley have suggested artificial intelligence will eventually create so much wealth that companies could redistribute it to the public, including people whose livelihoods were impacted by AI. But Jaron Lanier sees problems with that plan.
“I don't want to create more people who are just dependent on state payout to survive,” said Lanier, a technology pioneer and Microsoft Corp.'s Prime Unifying Scientist. “I want to create more, if you like, creative classes of people who are really good at providing fresh data that makes the models work better. So everybody benefits.”
Lanier made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview for the latest episode of the Bloomberg Originals series AI IRL, available to stream now. (Although employed by Microsoft, he doesn't speak for the company publicly.)
AI systems, including those supporting chatbots like ChatGPT, ingest vast amounts of online data to process requests from users and come up with relevant responses. Lanier argues that AI companies must work to determine which individuals contributed the most useful data to these services, with the goal of compensating people more fairly.
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“In order to do it, we have to calculate and present the provenance of which human sources were the most important to a given AI output,” he said. “We don't currently do that. We can do it efficiently and effectively, it's just that we're not. It has to be a societal decision to shift to doing that.”
Lanier, a computer scientist and researcher, is a respected multi-disciplinary veteran of Silicon Valley, simultaneously credited as godfather of innovations including virtual reality, but also a vocal critic of the technology industry itself. He said on AI IRL that he still considers himself an optimist about the role of advanced technologies, such as AI, in society.
“To be an optimist, you have to have the courage to be a fearsome critic,” Lanier said. “I have been very critical of the way we did social media. I have been very critical of a lot of things.” But, he added, “it's the critic who believes things can be better. The critic is the true optimist, even if they don't like to admit it.”
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