Open source isn’t working for AI


Clearly, we need to do something about how we talk about open source and openness in general. It’s been clear since at least 2006 when I rightly got smacked down for calling out Google and Yahoo! for holding back on open source. As Tim O’Reilly wrote at the time, in a cloud era of open source, “one of the motivations to share—the necessity of giving a copy of the source in order to let someone run your program—is truly gone.” In fact, he went on, “Not only is it no longer required, in the case of the largest applications, it’s no longer possible.”

That impossibility of sharing has roiled the definition of open source during the past decade, and it’s now affecting the way we think about artificial intelligence (AI), as Mike Loukides recently noted. There’s never been a more important time to collaborate on AI, yet there’s also never been a time when doing so has been more difficult. As Loukides describes, “Because of their scale, large language models have a significant problem with reproducibility.”

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