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  • Voltaire Staff

AI leaders write to Joe Biden on open source innovation

Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Top voices working in the field of Artificial Intelligence, including the Meta Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun, have written to US President Joe Biden, demanding the government have a "meaningful and robust dialogue on the importance of open source AI models."

The letter, signed by 18 people, some of them associated with firms such as Meta, Shopify, and a16z, was sent in response to Biden's Monday Executive Order, in which the president laid the groundwork to erect comprehensive guardrails against the possible misuse of AI.

The signatories in the letter highlighted their concerns with the "dual use foundational model" definition of AI in the order to say that the definition "would capture a significant portion of AI industry, including the open source AI community," which, they said, has been an important domain for technological innovation for decades.

"It is critical to realize that restricting the ability to develop open source software will undermine the competitive AI landscape and harm, rather than enhance cyber-security.

"Open Source technology has played a pivotal role in fostering innovation, encouraging competition, and democratizing access to technology," the signatories said, citing the Linux operating system for its importance in cloud computing and use across US government.

The signatories, besides LeCun, included Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, Garry Tan of Y Combinator, and Tobbi Lutke, CEO of Shopify.

The signatories said, "Open source technology is the reason the internet has succeeded far beyond our imagination and it is our national interest to protect it and encourage it in the AI era," as they cited the concerns of safety, competition, and academic work as reasons behind their arguing for keeping open source innovation on a long leash.

"The disclosure of code for public review, while counterintuitive, significantly enhances security … conversely, in proprietary system, vulnerabilities may linger undetected, or worse, detected by only bad actors who go searching for these weaknesses in order to exploit them," they said, and compared the open source system with peer-review culture for scientific publications, where members from the field shoot holes in each others' work to build better.

As regard undue competition from big players, they said, "The trajectory of AI’s future should not be under the control of select few corporate entities. Instead it should be the result of open competition… By championing open source, we are safeguarding a future where technology is of the people, by the people, and reflective of humanity’s collective wisdom."

Academics were able to bypass the proprietary software that come with prohibitory costs only because there existed open source software, they argued.

“Open source… has allowed researchers to operate outside of the restrictions imposed by proprietary platforms and tools. It provides researchers with an unbounded laboratory, free from the constraints of the commercial licenses," they said.

The missive comes in the wake of a comprehensive US government order that seeks to preempt potential misuse of AI in face of its unbounded growth.

Biden’s order comes as a blueprint that gives a thematic direction to future laws that would likely come to govern the Artificial Intelligence in the country.

The order promulgated Monday entrusted several US departments, such as Homeland Security and Defense, to come up with rules and regulations with respect to the technology that has stoked concerns about its nefarious use by bad actors.

"The rapid speed at which AI capabilities are advancing compels the United States to lead in this moment for the sake of our security, economy, and society," Biden said in the order.


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