“To build AI at any kind of meaningful scale, any developer is going to have core dependencies on resources that are largely concentrated in only a few firms,” said Sarah Myers West, managing director at the AI Now Institute, which researches the effects of AI on society. “There really isn’t a path out of it.”

This month, a flurry of announcements from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and OpenAI illustrated the frenzied pace of competition. Google integrated its Bard chatbot into Gmail, Google Docs and some of its other products; users found the tool making basic mistakes. Amazon announced a new conversation mode for its Alexa speakers using cutting-edge chatbot tech; in an onstage demonstration, the tool lapsed into long pauses between answers.

But the ability to push AI tech to customers through existing products is a key advantage, said Myers West. ChatGPT rocketed to popularity through word of mouth, social media posts and news coverage, but after only a few months it was already losing users, according to a report from web traffic monitoring firm SimilarWeb. Big Tech companies have billions of users coming to them every day.

“Ownership of the ecosystem matters,” Myers West said.

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