Could AI empower efficient collaborative research or increase reliance on large commercial companies?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been advancing at a rapid pace in recent years thanks to increased computing power and the vast troves of data that technology companies have been able to accumulate. However, the development of AI also faces some key questions regarding how it will impact research collaborations and reliance on large tech firms.
On the one hand, AI tools have the potential to greatly empower more efficient collaborative research across institutions and geographic boundaries. AI can help analyze massive datasets, generate useful insights and hypotheses, simulate complex phenomena, and reduce the need for some routine or dangerous research tasks. This could allow researchers everywhere to participate in and benefit from leading-edge discoveries. The open publication of research, code, and data supported by public funding also promotes collaboration.
However, there are also risks that advanced AI capabilities requiring specialized computing resources could further consolidate progress within only a handful of large commercial tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Meta, and Baidu. The teams and computing power concentrated in these companies already far outstrip what is available at most academic institutions. There are concerns that datasets and subsequent AI innovations derived from this data might not be openly shared back with the broader research community.
Moving forward, it will be critical to promote policies and technology approaches that fulfill the promise of AI to empower open research, while guarding against excessive centralization of advanced AI among a few private commercial entities. Maintaining a healthy collaboration between publicly-funded research and private companies will likely produce the greatest gains - but thoughtfully balancing the two and accounting for the divergent aims between progressing public science and pursuit of corporate profits will require diligence in the years to come. The outcomes could have profound impacts across nearly every field of human endeavor as AI capabilities continue to rapidly transform information technologies in the 21st century.