If a company were to deploy an open source AI system that led to some disastrous outcome, the author asserts, it’s not inconceivable the company could attempt to deflect responsibility by suing the open source developers on which they built their product. “This could further concentrate power over the future of AI in large technology companies and prevent research that is critical to the public’s understanding of AI,” Alex Engler, the analyst at Brookings who published the piece, wrote. “In the end, the [E.U.’s] attempt to regulate open-source could create a convoluted set of requirements that endangers open-source AI contributors, likely without improving use of general-purpose AI.”
In 2021, the European Commission — the EU’s politically independent executive arm — released the text of the AI Act, which aims to promote “trustworthy AI” deployment in the EU as they solicit input from industry ahead of a vote this fall, EU. institutions are seeking to make amendments to the regulations that attempt to balance innovation with accountability. But according to some experts, the AI Act as written would impose onerous requirements on open efforts to develop AI systems. The legislation contains carve-outs for some categories of open source AI, like those exclusively used for research and with controls to prevent misuse. But as Engler notes, it’d be difficult — if not impossible — to prevent these projects from making their way into commercial systems, where they could be abused by malicious actors. “The road to regulation hell is paved with the EU’s good intentions,” said Oren Etzioni, founding CEO of the Allen Institute for AI. “Open source developers should not be subject to the same burden as those developing commercial software. It should always be the case that free software can be provided ‘as is’ — consider the case of a single student developing an AI capability; they cannot afford to comply with EU regulations and may be forced not to distribute their software, thereby having a chilling effect on academic progress and on reproducibility of scientific results.”
Instead, Etzioni argues that EU regulators should focus on specific applications of AI. “There is too much uncertainty and rapid change in AI for the slow-moving regulatory process to be effective. Instead, AI applications such as autonomous vehicles, bots, or toys should be the subject of regulation.”
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