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SEC Chair Gensler Acknowledges A.I.’s Transformative Potential but Expresses Concerns

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In a recent speech at the National Press Club, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler expressed his belief that artificial intelligence (A.I.) is a transformative technology on par with the internet and mass production of automobiles. However, he cautioned that A.I.’s deployment poses significant challenges and risks to the global economy, necessitating the rewriting of rulebooks by governments.

Concerns over Macro Challenges and Financial Fragility:

Gensler anticipates “macro challenges for society” as A.I. becomes more widespread. He highlighted potential changes to the labor market and increased competition between the United States and China, as both countries strive to develop A.I. systems. However, his focus extends beyond these implications to the financial sector. Gensler warned that A.I. could heighten financial fragility, leading to it being featured in the “after-action reports” of future financial crises. He emphasized that this is a development of immense significance, comparable to the emergence of the internet and the invention of the modern automobile.

Herding Behavior and Big Tech Dominance:

One of Gensler’s concerns is the dominance of a small number of big tech giants in the A.I. space, which could lead to herding behavior in financial markets. He noted that investors relying on similar signals from A.I. systems could promote monocultures and potentially exacerbate market volatility. Referring to previous studies, Gensler cited the impact of herding behavior on stock market crashes and expressed concerns that dominance by a few major tech firms in the A.I. industry would exacerbate this issue.

Privacy, Intellectual Property, and Conflicts of Interest:

Gensler highlighted several additional challenges arising from the deployment of A.I. One such challenge pertains to data privacy and intellectual property rights. He mentioned the ongoing Hollywood writers and actors’ strike, which revolves around compensation disputes and the use of A.I. in entertainment productions. The SEC chair questioned the ownership of data and emphasized the need to closely monitor these debates. Additionally, Gensler warned of potential conflicts of interest for brokers and financial advisors, suggesting that the use of A.I. to optimize platforms’ interests over those of customers may lead to conflicts that need addressing.

The Need for Updated Regulations and A.I. Implementation:

Gensler argued that existing regulations are insufficient to address the challenges posed by A.I. and called for their update. He stressed the necessity of new thinking and system-wide or macro-prudential policy interventions to tackle the potential risks to financial stability posed by A.I. Furthermore, Gensler proposed the use of A.I. within the SEC itself, suggesting that greater implementation of A.I. technology in market surveillance, disclosure review, exams, enforcement, and economic analysis could enhance the commission’s regulatory efforts.

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Conclusion:

While recognizing the transformative potential of A.I., SEC Chair Gary Gensler expressed concerns about the technology’s impact on financial markets and society at large. He warned of herding behavior, the potential dominance of big tech firms in the A.I. space, and the challenges related to privacy, intellectual property, and conflicts of interest. Gensler stressed the need for updated regulations and suggested utilizing A.I. within the SEC to improve market oversight. As A.I. continues to evolve and shape various industries, Gensler’s remarks underscore the importance of balancing innovation with appropriate safeguards to maintain market stability and protect stakeholders’ interests.

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