In a recent article, Charlie Guo adds to the growing concerns that a too-concentrated ownership of generative artificial intelligence by a few companies could actually be dangerous to civilisation.
Generative artificial intelligence or Generative AI refers to the use of AI to create new content, like text, images, music, audio and videos.
Guo identifies 5 technology companies that are dominating investments in artificial intelligence startups. Although Meta is not one of the 5 investors, it is attempting a different approach to dominating the artificial intelligence market.
Together with Tesla, these Big Tech companies – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla – are known as the “Magnificent Seven.” They comprise 29.6% of the market capitalisation of the S&P 500. Last month The Motley Fool noted that Wall Street’s reliance on the Magnificent Seven has grown to a historically unhealthy level.
Setting aside a potential AI apocalypse that many are afraid of, Guo argues that concentrating AI into the hands of a few is in itself a problem.
The following is paraphrased from Charlie Guo’s article ‘Is Big Tech monopolising the AI boom?’ published by AI Supremacy.
Last month, Google agreed to pour up to $2 billion into the AI startup Anthropic. Normally, that would be a gargantuan amount of money for a startup to raise. But in Anthropic’s case, it isn’t even the biggest deal it’s done this season – in September, Amazon agreed to invest a separate $4 billion into the company.
If you’re a casual observer of the AI boom, it might seem like there’s a lot of fierce competition. But behind the scenes, leading AI startups have something in common: a narrow set of investors.
Guo explained why AI startups need so much money: “Foundation models like GPT-4 or Claude need hundreds of millions of dollars to train, and millions more to run at scale. These upfront costs go towards data collection, training runs, and fine-tuning.”
On paper, AI companies are in a bind, Guo added. “It takes serious capital to build and train new foundation models, but the [return on investment] is far from certain. GitHub Copilot is the only product I’m aware of that’s making over $100 million in revenue and isn’t losing tons of money in the process. Though, when you consider the training costs, it’s unclear whether Copilot is net profitable over its entire history.”
Who then, can bankroll new AI development, without the certainty of financial returns? Big tech companies, and specifically cloud platforms.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
OpenAI kicked off the current wave of billion-dollar funding rounds when it closed a massive investment from Microsoft last year. The details have never been made public but it has long been rumoured to have been a $10 billion deal.