Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new academic group is sounding a warning about powerful, if poorly understood, AI systems that are increasingly driving the field.

Why it matters: New models like OpenAI's text-generating GPT-3 have proven so impressive that they're serving as the foundation of further AI research, but that risks propagating the biases that may be built into these systems.

What's happening: This morning a group of more than 100 researchers released a new report on the "opportunities and risks" of foundational AI systems as part of the launch of a new group at Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered AI called the Center for Research on Foundation Models (CRFM).

  • The report warns that the very qualities that have made these models so exciting — and potentially so commercially valuable — creates what Percy Liang, a Stanford computer science professor and the director of CRFM, calls "a double-edged sword."
  • "We're building AI infrastructure on a handful of models," he adds, but our inability to fully understand how they work or what they might do "means that these models actually form a shaky foundation."

Background: Liang notes that until recently, AI systems were built for specific purposes — if you needed machine translation, you built a machine translation model.

  • But that began to change in 2019, when Google introduced its BERT natural language processing (NLP) model.
  • BERT now plays a role in most of Google's search functions, while Facebook researchers harnessed BERT as the basis for an even larger NLP model that it uses for AI content moderation.
  • At the same time companies like OpenAI and AI21 Labs have begun allowing developers to build commercial applications off their own massive NLP systems.

How it works: With these systems, "you just grab a ton of data, you build a huge model, and then you go in and discover what it can do," says Liang.

  • As an AI scientist, he adds, the power of these models is "so cool," but they also risk homogenizing the AI field.
  • Any biases in these models — or in the data they're built upon — "risks being amplified in a way that everyone inherits," says Liang.

The bottom line: The good news is this foundation is still being built, so interdisciplinary groups like CRFM can work to study those defects and hopefully correct them.

  • The bad news is that we may be running out of time to do just that.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that the Center for Research on Foundation Models (CRFM) is at Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered AI.

Go deeper

DOJ sues American Airlines, JetBlue to block "unprecedented" alliance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued American Airlines and JetBlue to block an "unprecedented series of agreements" that will consolidate the two airlines' operations in Boston and New York City.

Why it matters: The civil antitrust complaint alleges that the planned Northeast Alliance (NEA) "will cause hundreds of millions of dollars in harm to air passengers across the country through higher fares and reduced choice," the DOJ said in a release.

FBI: Body identified as Gabby Petito, death ruled a homicide

A memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito near City Hall in North Port, Fla. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

A body found in Teton County, Wyoming, on Sunday was confirmed to be the remains of missing 22-year-old blogger Gabby Petito, the FBI announced Tuesday.

Driving the news: The death was ruled a homicide by the Teton County coroner's office, the FBI said. The cause of death has not been determined.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer/Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.