How a K-pop band alerted a minister to the challenges of AI

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K-pop band MAVE’s debut single went viral in January 2023, with the film clip surpassing 10 million views in two weeks. But everything about the band – its members, music, choreography and interviews – was generated by artificial intelligence.

Andrew Leigh, the assistant minister for competition, cited this as just one example of the broad potential uses for AI, which he says could be as transformative as electricity or the steam engine.

K-pop band MAVE had a hit single in January. The entire group – from members to music – was created by artificial intelligence.Credit: Metaverse Entertainment

“People are using AI in ingenious ways,” he said in a speech at the McKell Institute in Sydney on Wednesday. “Immense economic and social benefits will flow from AI. However, it is vital to acknowledge the multifaceted challenges that AI brings.”

In an interview, Leigh said it was critical to ensure the competition settings around the technology were right, and it was an issue the competition taskforce would grapple with.

“It’s a technology that has the potential to drive massive improvements in productivity, and also to help some of the most vulnerable in the community,” he said.

“But my fear is that the main AI engines could consolidate in the same way that we’ve seen internet search engines consolidate in the past quarter-century, and that would leave Australians facing a monopoly AI provider.”

Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh fears the main AI engines could consolidate the same way as internet search engines have.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Monopolies tend to charge higher prices and produce lower-quality goods, and Leigh said it was reasonable to expect that principle to hold for AI monopolies as well.

Beyond being used to create K-pop hits, Leigh said AI has the potential to be used in all sorts of areas, particularly in the service sector, which employs three-quarters of Australian workers.

“It is difficult to think of a service sector job that won’t be impacted in some way by AI,” he said.

“Particularly for those who are operating in offices, generative AI will potentially augment what people do, as well as in some cases, supplant jobs entirely.”

Leigh said under the leadership of Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic, the government has introduced the Responsible AI Adopt initiative and issued a discussion paper canvassing AI issues such as privacy, transparency and intellectual property, but looking at it from a competition standpoint was also vital.

“It’s critical because AI is general-purpose technology, like the steam engine, like electricity; it has applications right across the economy. It’s not a narrow technology, it’s a broad one,” Leigh said.

“It could underpin so many different areas, from education to law to the arts. We need to get it right.”

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