Recently, Meta (formerly Facebook) decided to release their chatbot coding as an open source. This means that software developers anywhere can take the code and use it for their own purposes. In essence, this will be hugely beneficial for some developers. Typically, code used to power something similar to a ChatGPT-quality chatbot, requires enormous resources to develop. This is something that smaller companies, or individuals, wouldn’t have the resources to produce.
This decision has many benefits and downsides. On the plus side, enabling all kinds of developers to use, play, and experiment with the code for free can enhance innovation. It means new discoveries can be made faster, and sometimes, more efficiently than if they were just being done by one company. The directions in which the code can be explored are infinite and unrestricted. Whereas if only one company, or a handful of them, developed the technology, there would be less options. As consumers, we would have to accept whatever these few companies developed as the “appropriate” uses.
However, this unrestricted freedom can also be one of the biggest downsides. While offering the code as open source allows for independent and innovative development, we can’t always predict in which direction the code will evolve. For example, somebody could use the code to create an underground app for deepfakes. Or to disseminate misinformation and disinformation broadly. Others may use the code to advance medical techniques, evaluate and discover gender bias in job descriptions, or help people craft resumes. The point is, without any regulation, oversight, or accountability, we can’t know the end result. Nor can we anticipate how far the technology will go or how fast. Once the code is out there, it’s probably unfeasible to rein it back in.
It’s hard to know which path is the right one to take. Innovation and discovery is important. It’s something that happens more easily when people don’t face restrictions. Or when regulations and governance are not slowing down progress. Yet, at the same time, this new technology has the potential to be dangerous. With so much freedom, it will be impossible to control it, if it isn’t already too late.