Open Source AI Is Not Winning — Incumbents Are
Progress in open-source (OS) generative AI (particularly language models, LMs) has exploded in recent months. As a consequence — and with the help of desperate internal confessions — people believe it has become a threat to incumbent companies like Google and Microsoft, and leading labs like OpenAI and Anthropic.
I think I speak for the majority when I say that, leaving aside that open-sourcing AI systems indiscriminately could exacerbate risks, we like the idea. OS has a strong positive connotation; it’s not that people dislike Big Tech but that we like when The People has the opportunity to outdo the powerful.
Here’s the story of how that feeling of anticipated victory came to be and why, sadly, it’s mistaken: OS AI is thriving but remains unable to dethrone the leadership of proprietary models — and unable to develop the resources to do so in the future.
This article is a selection from The Algorithmic Bridge, an educational newsletter whose purpose is to bridge the gap between AI, algorithms, and people. It will help you understand the impact AI has in your life and develop the tools to better navigate the future.
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Open-source AI is a force to be reckoned with
In early March, Meta’s LLaMA — the first decent OS LM — leaked online. OS developers accepted the gift and initiated attempts at reproducing OpenAI’s success on the open. In the next three months, the community lived through what Simon Willison called “a Stable Diffusion moment” for LMs — a wave of innovative research and creative development that promised to compete against ChatGPT.
Consulting firm Semianalysis shared a document where a Google engineer argued Google’s real competitor isn’t OpenAI but the OS community. Without a moat, neither of them could dream to resist “an entire planet’s worth of … labor.” For instance, the community managed to solve the scalability…