AI isn’t just what the West does

AI isn’t just what the West does

With help from Derek Robertson

The European Union and American flags are pictured

The European Union flag and the American flag. | Jacquelyn Martin, File/AP Photo

In the end, it could be multipolarity that brings about the singularity.

As leaders from the U.S. and Europe struggled to coordinate their AI response in Sweden last week, the government of Abu Dhabi was toasting the recent climb of its own large language model to the top of a global performance ranking.

The milestone — along with the decision a week prior to make the model open-source — highlights two trends complicating the transatlantic effort to rein in the development of artificial intelligence.

One is the global decentralization of digital know-how.

The other is a growing willingness from the rest of the world to buck the wishes of the Western alliance.

As POLITICO reported last week, leaders from both sides of the Atlantic are looking for common ground between the (more permissive) U.S. and (more restrictive) European posture towards AI in hopes of presenting a joint proposal to the G7 this fall.

Meanwhile, a letter released last week by AI experts compared the technology’s risks to those of nuclear weapons. It only took the USSR four years after Hiroshima to detonate its own bomb, with the technology spreading to roughly a half-dozen more nations from there.

The barriers to the spread of AI are, to put it mildly, lower.

That means policymakers in Washington, Brussels and London are at risk of fighting the last war — stuck in a moment when the most important consumer markets and the firms on the bleeding edge of technical innovation were largely confined to the U.S. and the European Union.

In 2023, it’s becoming more important to account for developments in the rest of the world.

Of course, there are the usual suspects to account for outside of this bloc: Russia’s state-owned Sberbank has invested heavily in AI, while China’s global share of AI patents grew from less than 5 percent in 1996, to more than a quarter in 2021, according to one estimate, putting it into contention as a global leader in the technology.

But, it’s increasingly apparent that “Russia, China and the West” is not the whole story either when it comes to the global AI race.

Late last month, Abu Dhabi’s state-run Technology Innovation Institute announced that it was making its Falcon 40B LLM — first released in March — open-source. The move coincided with the model’s ascension to the top of a performance ranking of about 100 open AI models maintained by New York-based AI firm Hugging Face.

The institute, founded in 2020, touts its open-sourcing decision as a means of making AI more “inclusive.”

DFD has written about the challenges of reining in open-source AI. When some of those open-source models are backed by sovereign states with a degree of geopolitical independence, that only compounds the challenge.

Outside of the trans-Atlantic alliance, even a close ally like G7 member Japan views emerging digital technologies as an opportunity to chip away at U.S. tech dominance.

That, too, promises to complicate coordinated AI regulation.

One point of divergence between the allies is already clear. For example, in the U.S., in lieu of near-term rules tailored to AI, copyright law is considered a possible avenue for slowing the technology’s advance, because of its potential to restrict the use of copyrighted material for training AI models.

In Japan, on the other hand, existing copyright laws are less restrictive. Domestic content creators have stepped up pressure on Japan’s government in recent weeks to address the use of copyrighted works to train AI. But a fact sheet released last month by the office of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reaffirmed the legality of training generative AI models on copyrighted works.

Kishida has said he wants Japan to lead global rule-making on AI through its chairmanship of the G7 this year.

Even assuming the G7 can reach a meaningful consensus, the gap between that and effective global consensus is getting bigger, not smaller, at a time when AI advancement shows no signs of slowing down.

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crypto's dodd-frank

Big news over the weekend from the crypto world: Late Friday, House Republicans released the draft text of a bill that would radically overhaul the government’s approach to regulating cryptocurrencies, finally settling the push and pull between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

POLITICO’s Zachary Warmbrodt wrote in today’s edition of Morning Money that the proposal immediately became “the main event in Washington when it comes to digital asset policy.” The bill would give a large amount of regulatory authority to the CFTC over the SEC, in what’s seen as a big win for the crypto industry.

Coinbase chief legal officer Paul Grewal tweeted that although “A comprehensive bill of this magnitude warrants an in-depth review… what we’re seeing so far is encouraging,” and Blockchain Association President Kristin Smith said in a statement that they “appreciate” the bill and “look forward” to reviewing it and providing feedback. (The SEC’s aggressive stance on crypto as of late has made it somewhat of an industry foe, to say the least.)

In MM Zach points out that those good vibes are exactly what could give the bill a bumpy ride through the House: Consumer-watchdog Democrats have to vote on the industry-friendly, “innovation”-oriented bill, too, and as in the case of the Dodd-Frank Act, the tangled web of financial rulemaking could prevent it taking effect for years. (For an extremely detailed look at the bill, see this 200-plus-part Twitter thread from policy analyst Justin Slaughter.) — Derek Robertson

europe's ai turf war

A clash of philosophies over tech regulation is brewing in the European Union.

POLITICO’s Mark Scott and Gian Volpicelli reported today for Pro subscribers on the growing discord between Margrethe Vestager, the bloc’s regulation-first European Commission executive vice president, and Thierry Breton, its more relatively laissez-faire Internal Market commissioner. Both officials are staking their claim to leadership on how the EU tackles AI, something that will be a major test of its privacy-first, consumer-oriented regulatory framework.

Mark and Gian detail their dueling plans: Breton’s “AI Pact,” which would “outlaw some AI use cases, straitjacket some ‘high-risk’ applications, and impose rigorous checks on how Google, Microsoft and others develop the emerging technology,” all starting in 2025, and Vestager’s proposed code of conduct that would ambitiously expand the EU’s regulatory influence by partnering with the U.S. on rulemaking.

Few details of Vestager’s plan are known as of yet, but as Gian and Mark write, “Which digital czar prevails matters. Europe hopes to complete its AI Act by the end of the year, with the rules coming into force likely by 2026. With such a gap before the rules become enforceable, EU officials acknowledge something is needed in the interim to address AI’s potential downsides.” — Derek Robertson

Tweet of the Day

Waiting to see which of the people I know on here cracks first and starts dating an AI, writes an AGI paper, becomes the “AGI intellectual” New Window

the future in 5 links

  • Apple’s VR headset is finally here (more on that tomorrow).
  • The SEC announced its long-awaited lawsuit against Binance.
  • Professionals are using AI to boost their income — and leisure time.
  • GPT has already found a place behind the scenes in doctors’ offices.
  • Google’s AI-powered search needs an upgrade, one writer argues.

Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Mohar Chatterjee ([email protected]); and Steve Heuser ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.

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