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October 31 2023

#104 From Policy to Practice: Dissecting the Implications of Presidential AI Executive Order

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Regulations, while crafted with consumer protection at heart, often cast a long shadow favoring established incumbents over new entrants. A case in point is the post-2008 financial regulations, which, although aimed at preventing future financial meltdowns, inadvertently made it tougher for new entrants to join the big bank club.

As we dissect the recently issued Executive Order titled 'Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence' by President Biden, this historical narrative hints at potential reverberations within the generative AI ecosystem. Delving into this further, let's first address the extinction fears surrounding AI, a narrative that has fueled much of the public discourse and policy considerations.

Dispelling Extinction Fears

Prof. Andrew Ng recently illuminated the sensationalism surrounding AI, attributing a part of it to a belief that generative agents might mirror the alleged actions of Homo sapiens towards other human species. I align with Prof. Ng's argument and further contend that the premise of extinction due to direct competition is likely flawed. It's plausible that genetic drift, a process where frequency of alleles change over time due to random sampling, played a more pronounced role in the extinction of Neanderthals, shedding a different light on these fears.

The debate surrounding the potential dangers of AI isn't new, but the lens through which we view these fears often lacks historical and biological context. By examining past evolutionary transitions, we may find not only more nuanced understandings but also better frameworks for fostering responsible AI development. The dialogue between the AI community and the public needs a more grounded foundation to constructively address concerns and guide regulatory measures.

Diverging perspectives on AI's potential risks and promises underscore the importance of informed discourse. The Executive Order, while a step towards formalizing AI ethics and safety measures, also brings forth an opportunity for a deeper, multi-dimensional discussion among stakeholders. Engaging diverse viewpoints can help shape a more balanced regulatory environment, bridging fears with facts and fostering a culture of responsibility in AI advancements.

Open-Source Dilemma

The EO, while championing AI safety, seems to bear unintended ripple effects. It imposes stringent reporting and compliance requirements, notably for models exceeding 10 billion parameters or utilizing over \(10^{26}\) floating-point operations. In the LLM/GenAI domain, the significant costs associated with training sophisticated models necessitate backing from financially robust entities, often big tech corporations.

The narrative of Meta's open-source project Llama exemplifies this challenge, underscoring the pivotal role of substantial financial backing in navigating the evolving regulatory landscapes. The EO, in its quest for transparency and security, may inadvertently create a high-entry barrier for open-source projects, potentially stifling innovation and competition. The intersection of financial prowess and open-source ethos presents a complex scenario, pushing the boundaries of traditional open-source narratives.

The dynamics between regulations, big tech support, and open-source initiatives are evolving. While the EO aims to foster a safer AI ecosystem, the unfolding narrative hints at a more intricate interplay. Reflecting on these dynamics can help anticipate challenges and opportunities, forging a path towards a more inclusive and innovative AI landscape.


The EO, albeit criticized for overreaching, embodies high aspirations albeit with a lack of actionable specifics, rendering its immediate impact on the AI community indistinct. As reiterated at the start, the LLM/GenAI domain is arguably a playground for the trillion-dollar big tech giants, a narrative the EO may not significantly alter. This discussion emphasizes the layered challenges transcending regulatory bounds in this highly specialized and resource-intensive sector, evoking a broader contemplation on the interplay between regulations, big tech support, and open-source initiatives.

>> Next Edition: Are We Ready for Open-Source Sausage?