Champion for Openness Top companies launch the AI Alliance to ensure safe and open source AI.

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Champion for Openness: Top companies launch the AI Alliance to ensure safe and open source AI.

A new consortium aims to support open source AI.

What’s new: Led by Meta and IBM, dozens of organizations from the software, hardware, nonprofit, public, and academic sectors formed the AI Alliance, which plans to develop tools and programs that aid open development.

How it works: The AI Alliance’s 57 founding members include established companies like AMD, Intel, Oracle, and Sony; startups like Cerebras and Stability AI; nonprofits such as HuggingFace and the Linux Foundation, public institutes like the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) and U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and universities in Asia, Europe, and North America. The group stated its intention to pursue a variety of projects:

  • Develop open foundation models, especially multilingual and multimodal models
  • Provide free benchmarks, standards, and safety and security tools to aid responsible development of AI systems
  • Encourage development of hardware that benefits open AI
  • Educate and lobby policymakers to encourage open development

Behind the news: The membership includes organizations that have prioritized open source development including Meta, Stability AI, and the Linux Foundation. Yet several organizations that provide popular open-source models are not represented, including models released under more permissive open source licenses like GPT Neo​​ and Mistral. Major companies like Apple and Google, who have released some of their work under open source licenses, are also absent. 

Yes, but: The meaning of “open” is contentious, and AI Alliance does not clearly define it. In large language models, for instance, the spectrum of openness includes:

  • Closed offerings like GPT-4 and Gemini
  • Semi-open models like Llama 2, which requires a special license for widely used applications
  • Projects licensed under open source terms that meet the standard defined by the Open Source Initiative, such as Apache and MIT, which permit anyone to use, modify, and distribute licensed code
  • Releases that include not only a trained model but also the code to train it from scratch

Why it matters: More openness means faster sharing of knowledge and a greater pace of innovation. The AI Alliance can put substantial resources and breadth of influence behind proponents of openness, potentially acting as a counterweight against well financed commercial interests that are threatened by open source development. For instance, some companies claim that restricting access to AI models is necessary to ensure that bad actors don’t misuse them; of course, it would also eliminate open source competition with those companies. On the other hand, open source advocates argue that transparency makes AI models less likely to be dangerous, since anyone can spot dangers and alter the code to reduce them.

We’re thinking: Open source is a powerful engine of innovation that enables people to build freely on earlier developments for the benefit of all. The AI Alliance’s gathering of commercial, institutional, and academic clout looks like a promising approach to promoting openness.


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