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Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Markus Trienke, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stefan Krause, Germany, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

JohnDarrochNZ, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Michael S Adler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

AI

Visions of AI in Popular Culture: report is out

Activist organisations often have difficulties with raising awareness around the problems that they make it their mission to solve. While lack of adequate expertise or access to funding that could be spent for information campaigns, are among reasons, there is a lot to be said about the messaging and methods we chose. What if we got inspiration from pop-culture and artworks that excell at translating the emerging tendencies and new technologies into the zeitgeist?

These are the droids you’re looking for

Together with SWPS University’s Institute of Humanities in Warsaw, Poland, we delved into exactly this inspiration! Students worked under the direction of the faculty on data collection and report Visions of AI in Popular Culture: Analysis of the Narratives about Artificial Intelligence in Science Fiction Films and Series. The Wikimedia assignment was to examine attitudes and winning narratives pertaining to the key narrative tropes:

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Artificial Intelligence Act: what is the European Union regulating?

Analysis

In this installment of series of longer features on our blog we analyse the scope of the AI Act as proposed by the European Commission and assess it adequacy in the context of impact of AI in practice.

AI is going to shape the Internet more and more and through it access to information and production of knowledge. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata are supported by machine learning tools and their role will grow in the following years. We are following the proposal for the Artificial Intelligence Act that, as the first global attempt to legally regulate AI, will have consequences for our projects, our communities and users around the world. What are we really talking about when we speak of AI? And how much of it do we need to regulate?

The devil is in the definition

It is indispensable to define the scope of any matter to be regulated, and in the case of AI that task is no less difficult than for “terrorist content” for example. There are different approaches as to what AI is taken in various debates, from scientific ones to popular public perceptions. When hearing “AI”, some people think of sophisticated algorithms – sometimes inside an android – undertaking complex, conceptual and abstract tasks or even featuring a form of self-consciousness. Some include in the definition algorithms that modify their operations based on comparisons between and against large amounts of data for example, without any abstract extrapolation.

The definition proposed by the European Commission in the AI Act lists software developed with specifically named techniques; among them machine learning approaches including deep learning, logic- and knowledge-based approaches, as well as statistical approaches including Bayesian estimation, search and optimization methods. The list is quite broad and it clearly encompasses a range of technologies used today by companies, internet platforms and public institutions alike.

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Debate: AI and the Commons – solutions to be found only beyond licences

While we surely must not shy away from looking at what develops with and around Open Content and for solutions of harmful effects we must seek beyond the licensing level. We shouldn’t try to leverage copyright as a prohibitive means unless we are willing to sacrifice the idea of the Open Content altogether.

Read the introduction to the debate

Read Anna Mazgal’s take on the issue

New technologies mean new dark sides

The breathtaking potential of automated systems includes a breathtaking danger of abuse. One might argue, however, that facial recognition is not actually an application of artificial intelligence technology, but a rather sophisticated method of pattern recognition combined with an instance of deep learning mechanisms. We should widen the scope to the digital content used for enhancing autonomous systems or automation in general – the term Automated Decision-Making, ADM, comes to mind. 

Nobody interested in digital technology, the internet, and fundamental rights should disengage from the debate around such systems and how to regulate them. At the same time we have to be quite precise about the types of content we are talking about. It’s not only because the property of being open (in the meaning of the open definition and the definition of Free Cultural Works) is key here. Also because the possible means for regulation differ according to the content in question.

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Debate: AI and the Commons – sharing is caring

The old principle that knowledge is power has been proven true in the online space in a way precedent only by the innovation of print. Free knowledge is designed to be shareable and shared online. It is evident that as the custodians of one of its flagship projects, Wikipedia, we should always consider if we could afford disengaging from conversation about the power that is created with it. This reflection is especially relevant in any global movement whose collective actions weigh enough to make a difference globally.

Read the introduction to the debate

Read John Weitzmann’s take on the issue

Match made in (online) heaven

Emergence of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other such projects wouldn’t have been possible without reliable, standardised mechanisms of controlling creative outputs by ceding rights to them. Creative Commons licences are a societally recognised tool to do just that. Of course Wikipedia could have gone with any tool of a release of rights. But because of the diffusion of Creative Commons licences and the community behind it willing to translate, improve and finally use the licensing it makes sense that CC licensing is present on Wikipedia to such an extent.

It is a joyous feedback loop – Wikipedia has many contributors so the intake of CC licensing is massive. Then the images and materials licensed in that way start functioning in other contexts and projects. The two ideas: of a tool and of a knowledge-building practice are mutually reinforcing. No wonder that there is a significant personal overlap between two communities of contributors.

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Debate: Should we care that AI facial recognition is trained on openly licensed photos?

Wikimedia.brussels introduces a new format: debate. Our regular contributors as well as guest authors look at one topic from various sides. The arguments may be contrary, or they may point to different priorities. Contributors cast light on the complexity of an issue that doesn’t lend itself to an easy one-way solution. It is up to our Readers to choose the most appealing point of view or appreciate the diversity of perspectives.

Read the contribution by Anna Mazgal

Read the contribution by John Weitzmann

These days, searchable Creative Commons-licensed resources include over 600 million items. Many of these are photos and out of them, a large number depicts humans – and their faces. While CC licensing does not touch upon the rights of subjects of photographs, the licences enable the author to waive many of their rights making possible, for example, reuse of images portraying people.

At Wikimedia, we are of course fans of open and free licensing – all content in projects such as Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons is available for further reuse. We love when people do that because practising Free Knowledge is only possible with frictionless sharing, adapting, remixing and building upon what already exists. But as we see the availability of these resources as a force for good, should we care if they are used in a way that harms people?

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Digital Principles by European Commission: too little, too late?

As abstract as they may seem, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of grand narratives in policy making. They help people make the meaning of events that otherwise seem as random as the weather and assess how effectively actions respond to objectives that the narrative sets. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the European Commision comes up with a plan for a Declaration of Digital Principles accompanied by a “Digital Compass”. But why only now? And why such a scope? And is all this enough to give the EU citizens a greater meaning of the role that the EU may have in shaping their online experiences? 

“The failure of imagination”

The European Commission from time to time takes seriously the need to create a grand narrative to help communicate its policy goals – and then underdelivers in practice. It is visible in the notion of “promoting our European way of life”, a framing that made its way into the official list of priorities of the Commission in the current legislative term. Not only is it a disappointing nod to the right-wing rhetoric of “Europe under siege”, but it also hardly means anything as we Europeans are rather beautifully different in how we choose to shape our ways of life. In fact In varietate concordia (Latin for United in diversity), the official motto of the EU fits us much better.

Another example is the Digital Single Market framework (DSM), which seems to make sense as to its core objective – removing online barriers in access to goods and services across the European Union. The problem is that the market does not exist in separation from the people, their needs, aspirations, and structural barriers they encounter in access to public and private services, in creating non-monetary value for themselves and for others, and finally in reaching out one another in a way that nurtures public debate and European cohesion. 

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