Many of us seek products and services from sellers with goods of the best quality and relatively lower prices. Sellers seek the highest prices for selling the least amount of goods. Sellers compete for customers but would much rather be the only seller in the marketplace or market space. Furthermore, consumers want more for themselves and less for other consumers.
This depiction of market behavior is normal and may seem chaotic to some who view the marketplace through a socialist lens. With all the recent talk about reining in artificial intelligence (AI), taming AI, and limiting its uses, it sounds like the hubris of socializing artificial intelligence products and services.
However, an AI-driven economy cannot be socialized by a single entity, despite all the noise about AI restrictions, limitations, and tighter rules and regulations sent down from the top elites. We all use artificial intelligence in daily activities, ranging from work and leisure to side hustles, if you have one. With the glitz and glamour of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, the point that is missed is this: AI products and services enable firms to meet demands, assist entrepreneurs to create value, and enhance the exchange processes we all take part in daily.
Zack Dugow, who wrote “How to Defend Yourself against All-Powerful Monopolies That Control Your Business” for Forbes, made an important observation but did not take it to its logical conclusion. Dugow said, “If you have a heavy reliance on one of these monopolies [artificially driven software or social media/web page tools], you need to be able to pivot your business quickly and have your backup plan readily available to you. What service providers can you switch to?”
Should AI technology and AI startups eliminate monopolistic behavior between firms and consumers and rid the market space of the unrealistic notion of any socialization of AI technology? Everything has a price and a cost, which is why socialism was debunked some time ago.
However, what about artificial intelligence? Can it be socialized in the market space? You can socialize some things, but artificial intelligence cannot generally be owned and operated by a single entity or widely restricted from public usage. Someone must own the productive resources, sell services, and upgrade and maintain the hardware and software.
Opening market spaces for AI seems reasonable; however, will the elites plan to socialize AI services and products, close up the industry, and eliminate AI buyer options? When prices, inputs, and outputs are calculated, it becomes an unfeasible proposition that AI services, products, and industries be socialized. Fortunately, more and more AI service startups are available for buyers. Again, people use AI-enabled services and products to a large degree for many day-to-day activities. AI startups are on the rise, and they are listening to the market space, despite the socialist view that permeates throughout the media pushing toward more regulations and clamping down on open competition. Nevertheless, even in an AI-driven economy, socialism still cannot work.
No company has yet been granted exclusive ownership privileges of AI products and services. Not yet! Currently, there are over thirteen thousand (and rising) private startups of AI services and products in the United States alone, according to eWeek. Will artificial products and services remain decentralized? AI is a tool and enabler of exchanges between customers and firms. The advent of AI technologies can ward off monopolist behavior in a free market because, with an innovative approach to a consumer product or service, any company may be able to prove themselves worthy in the face of Goliath. Contrary to popular opinion, firms that use AI to enhance customer satisfaction and increase productivity open more doors for regular folks to start up their own business, which gives buyers more options in the marketplace. It also allows customers to enjoy the many features and benefits of products and services that add value to their daily lives. Some need to see this point. In other words, those who want to centralize AI services and products to one seller and raise the barriers to industry entry are saying out loud that they want more for themselves and less for you (and me).
That means no firm should have the exclusive privilege of being the only provider of AI services. Right? So many industries started as decentralized firms and are now privileged providers. Question: Who sets the prices of AI services, packages, and models? While your local utility provider, in many cases, is granted the privilege of being the only supplier of utilities, Amazon, on the other hand, has not received the same privilege. Amazon has a strong position in the market, but we know of competitors out there we can visit if we would like to. The difference between privileged providers and Amazon is that Amazon is subject to market competition. Therefore, they must listen to customers and pay attention to price increases, warehouse logistics, and customer service improvements.
If AI products and services remain decentralized, it will allow the market spaces to regulate the prices and costs for using AI services as opposed to if AI services are centralized under one firm or an elite few, similar to airline companies. When consumers and entrepreneurs see the rising costs of AI-enabled platforms, it reduces the incentives to use that technology, but it also allows new entrants to come into the market space and attempt to deliver a better product at a marginally better price. To disregard this market movement is the intent of socialism in general.
Furthermore, a handful of AI service providers eventually reduces the quality of this handful of providers (there are many instances of this decline in quality and rising price when a provider is granted a monopoly privilege). However, a natural monopoly might be reasonably valued. Technology of any kind, operating in a free market, should be the mechanism by which people who desire to enter an industry can do so with their skills and investment and make their attempts at competing—even if they are unprofitable, they were able to enter the fray.
What is often misunderstood about monopoly and prices is explained by Murray Rothbard:
There is no direct control over price because price is a mutual phenomenon. On the other hand, each person has absolute control over his own action and therefore over the price which he will attempt to charge for any particular good. Any man can set any price that he wants for any quantity of a good that he sells; the question is whether he can find any buyers at that price.
In a free market, no one is granted monopoly privilege—a privileged market position is earned by providing the best quality and price that consumers are willing to buy. On the other hand, forced or restricted choice is a form of socialism, or at least interventionism. At this time, it seems the capital markets are deciding where to invest, which is apparent in the rising number of firms producing more products and services so that businesses can meet public demand. If, however, all capital for AI investment funnels to one entity, it would be a disaster insofar as an economic calculation.
The idea of socialism does not hold up to its tenets considering AI’s technological advances made in recent years from the rising number of firms, especially advances in AI for entrepreneurs and consumers alike. A socialist vision of the world is very compelling, but reality tells us something different. The basic premise is that someone has to produce, someone has to consume, and there is a price calculation for both to exist. In the reality of socialistic visions, when subjected to market space examination, this premise tends to break down.
In many cases, the producer and consumer are the same people at different times. Production must take time, and with knowledge of prices, producers know the quantity of goods to produce at any given time. Even if one can socialize the production of luxury items, homes, and vehicles, how does one produce the capital required to make those items? Even with all needed inputs, AI cannot engage in the economic calculation needed to make a socialist economy work.
Raushan Gross is an Associate Professor of Business Management at Pfeiffer University. His works include Basic Entrepreneurship, Management and Strategy, The Inspiring Life and Beneficial Impact of Entrepreneurs, In Pursuit of an Entrepreneurial Culture, and Emerging Institutions of Entrepreneurship. His research interests include topics ranging from entrepreneurship, free markets, economies, markets and competition, and the role of technology in market coordination.