Bootleggers & Baptists
Back in the days of Prohibition in the US, two very different groups wanted the same thing: no alcohol sales on Sundays. The Baptists had moral reasons; they believed alcohol was wrong. The bootleggers, who sold illegal alcohol, wanted one day without competition from legal sales. This odd partnership gave birth to the "Bootleggers and Baptists" theory by Bruce Yandle. It says that sometimes, different groups want the same regulations for their own reasons.
Now, let's look at today's world of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Two well-known figures, Sam Altman from OpenAI and Gary Marcus, sat next to each other testifying to Congress, supporting AI regulations. Marc Andreesen makes the analogy, that this theory might also apply to AI. It might seem like the old "Bootleggers and Baptists" story again, but does it?
Why it might be different this time:
Altman's Clear Stance: Altman isn't trying to get ahead sneakily. He says openly, “We have said there shouldn't be rules for smaller companies. We only want rules for ourselves and bigger ones." This isn't like the secret plans of the bootleggers.
Marcus's Concerns: Marcus wants rules for AI, but his main reason is to make sure AI is used safely and responsibly.
Support for startups: Both Altman and Marcus agree that small companies, should be free to come up with new ideas without too many rules.
The Challenge of Making Rules: The Example of Section 230
Making good rules is hard. One rule for the internet, called Section 230, shows this. It was made to encourage free speech and protect platforms from liability. Sometimes, this can go too far, though, as illustrated in this dark story in Radio Lab. This shows how tough it can be to make rules that help innovation and keep things safe.
In the end, as AI becomes a bigger part of our world, we need to think carefully about the rules we make. Section 230, however also shows, that not all regulation will kill innovation — contrary, can also foster it.