Michael Schlechtinger, Data and Web Science Group: antitrust compliant AI (October 2023)

Michael Schlechtinger has been a PhD student at the University of Mannheim since August 2020 and is working on the project Kartellrechtskonforme KI (KarekoKI) of the Data and Web Science Group at the Faculty of Business Informatics and Business Mathematics. Previously, he studied for a Master's degree in Information Systems at the University of Siegen.

What is your current research topic?

I am dealing with the topic “antitrust compliant AI”. I am investigating the extent to which AI, specifically reinforcement learning based pricing algorithms, are capable of forming cartels. With my research, I hope to raise awareness of the behavior of these pricing algorithms and possibly provide legislators with a basis for future decisions in this area.

For those who have not yet delved deeply into the topic of Data Science: How would you explain to a child what you are working on?

I check to see if sellers are collaborating on the Internet (possibly without their knowledge).

Everyone talks about Data Science – how would you describe the importance of the topic for yourself in three words?

Mathematics, analysis, prediction

What points of contact with Data Science does your work have? Which methods do you already use, and which would be interesting for you in the future?

Due to my rather broad project topic, I am allowed to deal with a variety of methods. My main focus is on reinforcement learning methods. In particular, I investigate the behavior of agents that use proximal policy optimization and deep Q-learning. Currently, I use this in combination with basic methods of Data Science, such as classification, regression and time series analysis. In the future, I would also like to go deeper into generative AI (but this is more a private interest than relevant to my research).

How high is the value of Data Science for your work? Would your research even be possible without Data Science?

Without Data Science, there would be no AI, and without AI, dynamic pricing methods would not be as prevalent as they are today. So data science is fundamentally important to (almost) everything I do in my research.

What development opportunities do you see for the topic of Data Science in relation to your field?

I expect that price agents will be able to set prices even more profitably in the future, but this will benefit larger companies in particular. I expect that in the future antitrust authorities will be forced to access these or similar technologies so that the “black box” that AIs currently represent can be effectively monitored.