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Three Ways the US Could Help Universities Compete with Tech Companies on AI Innovation

 |  April 30, 2024

By: Ylli Bajraktari, Tom Mitchell, and Daniela Rus (MIT Technology Review)

The ongoing AI revolution holds tremendous promise for enhancing various aspects of our lives, from work dynamics to healthcare practices. However, shaping the direction of this technology necessitates more than just relying on tech developments within private enterprises.

Historically, AI breakthroughs, which underpin today’s commercial surge, stemmed from research conducted at universities. Moreover, academia has been instrumental in nurturing the leaders of pioneering AI firms. Nonetheless, the current landscape sees private companies dominating the frontier of AI with large foundational models (LFMs) such as ChatGPT, Claude, and Gemini. These models demand immense computational power and vast datasets, which academia often lacks.

Empowering universities to maintain their position alongside private enterprises in AI research is crucial for unlocking the field’s full potential. This entails addressing the glaring disparity in access to computing resources between academia and industry.

Academia’s forte lies in its capacity to undertake long-term research endeavors and fundamental inquiries that push the boundaries of knowledge. The freedom to explore and experiment with innovative theories fosters discoveries that serve as the bedrock for future innovations.

While LFMs have become ubiquitous tools, numerous questions persist regarding their functioning, as they remain somewhat opaque. For instance, AI models exhibit tendencies to produce hallucinations, yet the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Resolving such mysteries requires sustained academic inquiry and collaboration, ensuring that AI advances align with societal needs and ethical considerations.