If upon opening a newspaper you find yourself unable to escape the torrent of constant developments on AI, fintech, blockchain, and virtual worlds, and the myriad rules and regulations that go with them, that’s because the automated and decentralised platform economy is exploding with innovations, investments, adoption (and some inevitable failures).
From media generation, through voice assistants, to self-driving cars, there is no aspect of life that AI has not forced us to reconsider in the last couple of years alone. Venture capital investment in generative AI more than quadrupled in the first half of 2023 compared to the year before, and the EU is already rushing to regulate AI risk, affected human rights, and liability of AI systems. Meanwhile, despite the recurring scandals and bad publicity, blockchain is (quietly this time) achieving real-life institution-driven adoption, whether through CBDCs, tokenised assets, crypto-ETFs, or international remittance networks, all with the backing of governments or major institutional actors of the calibre of JPMorgan, Paypal, and Blackrock. Cryptoassets now represent a $2 trillion economy and that that figure is only expected to grow now that the sector is achieving high levels of regulatory compliance. And while, Facebook’s metaverse proved to be a premature flop, the vision behind decentralised virtual worlds remains alive, and with it the various challenges including interoperability, human rights, and the role of terms of service and platforms hosting these worlds.
In this context, and with new funding by the AHRC, we are launching CREATe’s new research theme on Automation, Decentralisation, and Platforms to coordinate our research, events, teaching, and networking activities in this space. With CREATe’s UK and international footprint and reach, this will serve as a hub for our own projects, but also for anyone who wants to explore the automated and decentralised economy with us.
We see this new economy as a space that, while carrying many of the characteristics of existing digital markets, is also markedly different. It encompasses technologies that can become autonomous actors (:automated) or that rely on the decision-making input of a multitude of stakeholders (:decentralised). From this point on, technological artefacts cease to serve only as tools in the hands of humans, but rather assume a role of their own. Decentralised technologies mean that the governance and operation of decentralised products and services are effectuated only through the combined work of constituent parts; no longer is the black box of the firm the locus in which activity is generated – this is dispersed across constituent parts.
Our staff and activities are already exploring these new dynamics. Led by Prof Konstantinos Stylianou and Zihao Li, the stream brings together numerous scholars who study the infrastructure, governance, and substantive law aspects of the automated and decentralised platform economy. Gabriele Cifrodelli studies the regulation and self-regulation of AI through the terms of service of AI services, but also the very personhood of AI through the lens of intellectual property law. Prof Kristofer Erickson, an expert on decentralized creativity and innovation, has recently turned his attention to how generative AI technologies are impacting the creative industries. Stefan Luca is interested in platform governance with a particular focus on content moderation, news media, and responses to disinformation. Alessio Azzutti at the Corporate and Financial Law Research Group sheds light on the implications of AI adoption in finance, including how machine learning , posing risks to the integrity and stability of global capital markets. Zihao’s cross-disciplinary research focuses on both automation and decentralization, delving into the dynamics of technology and law. He explores the regulatory aspects of hallucination risks associated with Large Language Models and the regulation of online algorithmic pricing. His research also envisions sustainable, autonomous and decentralised AI services for the entire Web 4.0 environment and metaverse (both on and off blockchain). And Konstantinos is looking into the competition aspects of the decentralised economy (e.g., cryptoasset competition, crypto-economy market shares) and of fintech markets, as well as into the distortions and abuses of the governance processes of products and services in the decentralised economy. products and services in the decentralised economy.
We are already planning activities in this space, and we encourage anyone with an interest in these topics to get in touch. Our launch event where we will set the intellectual agenda of the automated and decentralised economy will take place in the Autumn 2024 (make sure to subscribe to CREATe’s newsletter), and as we continue to explore these areas, we will organise additional events, run projects, and make available limited funding for collaborative research. We also welcome co-authorship proposals, especially if you have an advanced research idea that you think would benefit from our expertise.