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Open Source

As White House Weighs in on AI, Open Source Remains Crucial for Creatives

The order seeks to protect us from unseen harms of AI, but members of the open source community are raising some red flags. 
Nov 6th, 2023 10:00am by
Featued image for: As White House Weighs in on AI, Open Source Remains Crucial for Creatives
Feature image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

On Monday, Oct. 30, the White House issued an executive order, designed to chart a secure and ethical course for the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI). This order has sparked a critical conversation about the future of innovation and the role that open source has to play in the development of generative AI technology.

On the surface, the order seeks to protect us from unseen harms of AI, but members of the open source community are raising some red flags. They argue that the policy’s well-intentioned guardrails may actually constrict open source software development, which has been the lifeblood of advancement and technological innovation.

I recently joined the board at Invoke, a pioneering open source project with a mission to equip creatives with the tools and resources they need to benefit economically and creatively in the era of generative AI. Invoke works with visual creatives, teams, and enterprise customers to deploy custom AI models and a powerful front-end image editing application for existing openly-licensed foundational models.

We believe that the ability to develop open source generative AI is vital to preserving creative freedoms and the economic viability of working as an artist or professional in creative design work.

Open source gives artists the ability to train AI models on their own work, even if they don’t hold the copyright to their work.

Major corporations frequently tout copyright as a critical tool for artists and creators to safeguard their creations and retain ownership rights. Yet, in reality, copyright often becomes a tool for corporations to retain control over creators, as most professional creators are required or compelled to give up their copyright protection to their employers or industry giants who amass vast libraries of intellectual property. Consider the music industry’s landscape, where even iconic figures like Taylor Swift have opted to reproduce their earlier works to reclaim ownership after losing control to investment entities.

Any policy shift that centralizes the power of AI model development into the few well-funded tech companies that can afford to deal with the regulatory overhead will ultimately hurt artists and creative professionals in the long run.

For artists to remain competitive, we need to ensure access to train and manage their own AI models without requiring licensing agreements with tech titans.

Open source democratizes access to the most powerful tools in generative AI

The creative industry has historically been at the mercy of proprietary technology companies that lock powerful tools behind paywalls and high license fees. With generative AI, we’ve seen the most advancements coming from the open source community, supported by research teams at non-profit and educational institutions.

Open source can level the playing field, allowing creatives to explore, innovate, and create using the most advanced tools without the burden of restrictive licensing limits and fees. This democratization is not only fair but fosters a more vibrant, diverse, and competitive landscape where creativity is not limited by the few major tech players in power.

The Path Forward

As we navigate the emerging landscape of AI technology, our decisions now are foundational for the future. History shows us that while new technologies often arrive wrapped in caution, they frequently unlock new avenues for growth and creativity. AI promises to follow in these footsteps. Certainly, we must work to address some of the key concerns around metadata, provenance, and nefarious use, but we must do so in a way that doesn’t unintentionally hinder open source development.

I committed to Invoke’s board, inspired by their commitment to fostering an inclusive, strong open source AI environment and infusing a spirit of creativity into tomorrow’s foundational technologies. It is my hope that this vision will inspire more to contribute to the open source community and help us craft an ecosystem that allows creatives to flourish in the generative AI era. Join us on Discord or Github!

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