Toward a Polycentric or Distributed Approach to Artificial Intelligence & Science

Article by Stefaan Verhulst: “Even as enthusiasm grows over the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), concerns have arisen in equal measure about a possible domination of the field by Big Tech. Such an outcome would replicate many of the mistakes of preceding decades, when a handful of companies accumulated unprecedented market power and often acted as de facto regulators in the global digital ecosystem. In response, the European Group of Chief Scientific Advisors has recently proposed establishing a “state-of-the-art facility for academic research,” to be called the European Distributed Institute for AI in Science (EDIRAS). According to the Group, the facility would be modeled on Geneva’s high-energy physics lab, CERN, with the goal of creating a “CERN for AI” to counterbalance the growing AI prowess of the US and China. 

While the comparison to CERN is flawed in some respects–see below–the overall emphasis on a distributed, decentralized approach to AI is highly commendable. In what follows, we outline three key areas where such an approach can help advance the field. These areas–access to computational resources, access to high quality data, and access to purposeful modeling–represent three current pain points (“friction”) in the AI ecosystem. Addressing them through a distributed approach can not only help address the immediate challenges, but more generally advance the cause of open science and ensure that AI and data serve the broader public interest…(More)”.