Jul 19, 2023 - Technology

Meta's double-headed Llama

Illustration of a llama peeking out from around the back of a giant Meta logo.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Meta policy chief Nick Clegg wants you to be impressed by the powers of its latest open source AI model, known as Llama 2 — but not so impressed that you worry about the havoc it could wreak in the wrong hands.

Why it matters: Meta has opened the new model to allow anyone to use it commercially for free — the prior version, released in February, was for research use only.

  • Those using Llama 2 have to agree to an acceptable use policy, but once the code is out there, those rules could prove tough to enforce.

Driving the news: Meta sounded its trumpets Tuesday for the Llama 2 release, announcing partnerships with a variety of industry giants including Microsoft, Amazon and Qualcomm.

  • Microsoft will be the preferred cloud partner, getting Llama 2 first for Azure, but Amazon also plans to offer Llama through AWS.
  • Qualcomm, meanwhile, is working with Meta to ensure that Llama can run natively on phones and other devices rather than relying on the cloud.

Zoom out: Meta's open-source AI strategy aims to help the social giant catch up to the phenomenal popularity of OpenAI's ChatGPT.

Yes, but: Government experts worry that free, powerful AI models available for re-engineering could hasten the emergence of threats like genetically engineered bioweapons.

What they're saying: Clegg, Meta's global affairs president, used an Axios interview to talk down Llama's capabilities.

  • While acknowledging “you can't predict or litigate for all downstream uses," of AI, he argued Llama 2 could not be categorized alongside "frontier models" which are defined as highly capable models in risky fields
  • Meta is not aiming to create “all-singing, all-dancing artificial general intelligence," Clegg said, calling its Llama models "much, much dumber than that. They're just a textual predictive pattern recognition system.”

Between the lines: Misinformation is universally viewed by experts as a top AI risk.

  • Because Llama 2 is designed to run on devices as well as in the cloud, Meta may have a hard time holding users to its acceptable use policy.
  • And Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram — like the rest of the world — are going to have to deal with whatever Llama spits out.

The big picture: Llama 2 is the latest of a number of projects that Meta has released via something akin to open source.

What they're saying: Efforts to test how Llama 2 reacted to demands for sensitive material in fields such as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons led to “very marginal” issues, Clegg said, insisting these “could easily be mitigated.”

  • Meta will submit its Llama models to the DefCon hackathon in August for further stress testing.
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