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Biden Administration Kicks Off Process Which Could Lead to Restrictions on Open-Source Software

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US President Joe Biden has decided that it is a good idea to try going after the open source software development model – specifically (for now?) in the context of AI.

The Biden administration is doing this via an executive order, issued at the end of October, which states that the goal is to create AI industry standards and ensure safety of citizens, government agencies, and – companies.

Some observers are interpreting this as an attempt to restrict open-source AI, and essentially harness the power of the technology by centralizing it in the hands of a small number of powerful corporations with closed, proprietary development models.

Although the executive order is said to be long on words, yet managing to remain short on detail, making the whole situation currently fairly confusing, what is understood from it is making some prominent figures in the industry raise concerns about the possible negative consequences on innovation, and creation of monopolies.

Thus Martin Casado of the Andreessen Horowitz VC firm – joined by a number of academics and AI-based technology founders – wrote in a post on X, “We believe strongly that open source is the only way to keep software safe and free from monopoly. Please help amplify.”

Like so many controversial initiatives and decisions coming from the current White House, this executive order is said to be overly broad, and putting startups and smaller companies in danger of not having the resources to meet its requirements the way the giants can.

For its part, the administration has not yet decided to definitively take the path of restricting open-source AI and has instead asked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to come up with recommendations by July 2024.

At least NTIA administrator Alan Davidson thinks that the executive order is “pretty clear” in terms of assigning a task to this agency, and in his statements to the press, promises that NTIA is not “trying” to prejudge the outcome.

However, if the recommendations go the way the critics of the order fear it will, it’s clear who will benefit: Big Tech (and, its “symbiotic partner,” the government). Today, ironically named OpenAI, as well as similar projects by Microsoft and Google, are very much so close-sourced and no doubt adverse to competition.

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