Sex and the State
Sex and the State Podcast
Fuck, and I do mean fuck, AI licensure

Fuck, and I do mean fuck, AI licensure

The costs outweigh the benefits

Watch me read this:

I wasn’t going to write about AI regulation. But then on Breaking Points (

’s favorite show) complained about Google’s monopoly.

Uh, no offense Stoller, but we’ve got a much more important wannabe monopolist to worry about right now. That’s right, my babies, I watched the entire hour and a half Senate hearing on AI regulation with Sam Altman and representatives from IBM and Uber. The things I do for you, and liberal democracy.


pointed out, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) acted like it’s simply unprecedented for a CEO to ask Congress to regulate his industry. Polumbo linked to a recent post from my fave tradcath, saying this actually happens all the time and who, as per ushe, brings the receipts.

My babies, I ask you, who in the everloving fuck do you think is going to write these regs? The cryptkeeper Senators who barely know how to use their phones? Or, perhaps, their 20-something, overworked aids who are angling for lobbying positions at these same companies in a few years will simply take the language from the current lobbiests and turn it into law. That doesn’t sound like how things work, you say? Au contraire. Lobbyists write regulations for their own industries the reg.

In the hearing, Senator Kennedy asked Sam Altman if he’d like to set the industry standards. Altman said he loves his job. So Kennedy asked if he had any recommendations for who to tap, and Altman said he did. Of course he fucking did.

Powerful companies want new regulations because they entrench their position in the marketplace. They say, let’s erect regulatory hurdles consisting of things we are already doing or plan to do which smaller, newer companies are going to have more trouble affording and/or navigating in order to insulate ourselves from competition. For a totally random example, the IBM representative called for a legal requirement that every AI company hire an AI Ethics person and convene an AI Ethics Board, two things which IBM has, of course, already done.

It’s called “regulatory capture.” Look it up, sweaties.

And it would be one thing if we were talking about regulations or new regulatory bodies that made any sense outside of regulatory capture. But I watched all 1.5 hours and nothing of the sort was discussed.

The aforementioned cryptkeepers and businesspeople did mention appointing new regulators, creating a new agency to regulate AI, and, most egregiously, requiring every AI company to obtain a license in order to legally operate.

I’m going to talk about the licensure idea because it’s the most obviously corporatist and stupid proposal mentioned in this hearing. As we’ve discussed in these here posts many, many times over the years, licensure laws demonstrably do not improve safety or quality and simply limit competition for incumbents while raising prices for consumers, decreasing economic growth, and lowering employment. States haven’t figured out how to license florists without royally fucking everything up. What in the everloving fuck makes anyone with half a functioning brain cell imagine that Congress is going to figure out how to effectively license AI companies?

Congresscritters also had the gall to use nuclear energy regulators as a model for AI regulation. But as Polumbo pointed out, inane regulations make it nearly impossible to build the safest, cheapest, most zero-carbon-emission form of energy plant in the US.

When discussing a new agency to regulate AI, they pointed to the FDA as a model. The Uber guy even suggested something like FDA pre-approval before a company is legally allowed to make a model available to the public. May I remind you how much the FDA fucking sucks?

The IBM rep used EU AI rules as a potential model. But as James Czerniawski writes, “Europe is taking a centralized bureaucratic approach that restricts access to services and squelches innovation by tying developers up in legal knots.”

Czerniawski emphasizes how much dynamic, competitive, innovative US AI companies can benefit us and the world. Perhaps as importantly, Jim Geraghty lists some potential dangerous downsides to letting China beat us to the punch.

What’s annoying about libertarians, well, one thing that’s annoying about libertarians, is their tendency to unthinkingly reject broad swaths of government action. Of course, if they opposed all government action they’d be anarchists. So they’ll support shit like the military industrial complex, broad powers for police, and in many cases restrictions on abortion and freedom of movement. But talk about a social safety net or public health and whoa nelly! Now we’re talking about Big Government. It’s especially stupid when they reject investments in social safety nets and public health that actually save the government money on-net.

One annoying progressive tendency is to unthinkingly support broad swaths of government action. I’m thinking in particular, in light of the Stoller segment, about “regulation.”

Now, I’ll be honest. Libertarian/neoliberal is still the best label for my politics. So it is really difficult for me to think of a single regulation where we couldn’t use other means to better achieve its supposed goal.

Examples just abound. SESTA/FOSTA is supposed to reduce sex trafficking. Decrim does this more effectively with wayyy fewer downsides and a ton of additional upsides. Occupational licensure is supposed to ensure safe, high-quality services. It not only fails to do this but raises prices, lowers employment, and slows economic growth. Zoning is supposed to protect homeowners from nuisances. It actually reinforces racial and economic residential segregation, reduces GPD, decreases employment, exacerbates public health problems, and further pollutes the environment and speeds up climate change. And at the end of the day, your neighbor can still let their dogs bark outside 24/7. Rent control is supposed to help prevent displacement. Instead it raises average rents, which actually cause displacement. And it disproportionately helps wealthier renters.

In sum, libertarians often seem very motivated to avoid acknowledging any potential argument for any instance of a government expenditure outside their list. And progressives often seem very motivated to avoid any acknowledgement of the reality of regulatory capture.

The reality is that many, if not most, regulations are simply instances of powerful interest groups groups using state violence to fuck everyone else.

SESTA/FOSTA is incumbent tech companies fucking over smaller websites that want to host user-generated content without the potential for huge fines and criminal charges. Occupational licensure is incumbent professionals fucking over people who want to compete with them for customers by making it more expensive and time-consuming for them to do the same job. Zoning is homeowners keeping their neighborhoods rich and racially homogenous and ensuring their property values continue to rise by fucking over renters and people who would like to move to their neighborhoods. Rent control is housing developers increasing average rents by fucking over renters and rental property owners who fall under rent control.

The evidence is really strong that doing away with all of these regulations would benefit more people more intensely than they currently benefit the powerful groups who, in many cases, wrote these regulations.

Environmental regulations might be the best example of an exception to my rule. Tragedy of the commons, and all that.

But for AI, regulatory capture will cause far more harm than the regulations are supposed to prevent. But we’ll be dealing with the seen and the unseen.

The FDA approval process for Covid-19 vaccines accounted for the potential dangers of going too fast (seen) but ignored the additional deaths that would happen due to delays (unseen).

If we allow OpenAI and other incumbents to write these regulations, create these agencies, and erect these licensure requirements we will never get to live in the alternative world of a dynamic and competitive US marketplace for AI innovation. We won’t get to live in a world in which the US beats China. And, if the history of regulation and licensure is any indication, for all that we give up, we won’t even be safe.

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Sex and the State
Sex and the State Podcast
A podcast which is me reading you my newsletter about power.