Alignment Assembly on AI and the Commons — outcomes and learnings

June 12, 2024

Artificial intelligence shapes and affects the Digital Commons; however, there is no consensus on AI’s specific impacts on the Commons and how advocates and stewards of the Digital Commons should seek to manage this impact.

Generative AI is built on the digital infrastructure of the commons and uses the vast quantity of images, text, video, and rich data resources of the internet: open science research, open source code, and various sorts of training data that is either public or openly shared. Most importantly, AI developers train their models on large amounts of content and data shared by a multiplicity of collections and repositories.

Access to the Digital Commons enables innovation and the development of systems that could become the next general-purpose digital technology. But these developments are not without risks and challenges: from bias and lack of transparency to energy consumption and environmental footprint, from new concentrations of power to impacts on creative work – these are all challenges that can influence the commons and need to be addressed.

To this end, the Alignment Assembly on AI and the Commons aimed to answer the question: what do open movement activists, creators, and organizations think about regulating generative AI? Open Future, together with Creative Commons and Fundación Karisma, organized this conversation over six weeks between 13 February and 17 March 2024.

An alignment assembly is a combination of a survey and a conversation designed to inform policy debates and align technology development with collective values. It is a participatory conversation methodology developed by the Collective Intelligence Project using the online survey platform

The Alignment Assembly on AI and the Commons built on previous joint work at the Creative Commons Summit, which took place in Mexico City on 3-6 October 2024. At this event, a group of 30 activists and experts discussed the regulation of AI in the context of Digital Commons. The result was a set of principles. The formulation of the principles was followed by an in-person alignment assembly, providing a first snapshot of areas of consensus and disagreement. Our goal with the recent virtual assembly was to reach a broader range of individuals and organizations from around the world.

The results of this process show that the emergence of generative AI is challenging established approaches to openness, sharing, and the Digital Commons. We found consensus around the need to consider values beyond openness and the imperative of public infrastructure, investment, and alternatives in AI. The principles for regulating generative AI that started this conversation received broad support, but the assembly has also revealed potential areas for refinement. We identified two groups with divergent perspectives that need to be reconciled: the Regulation Skeptics and the Interventionists. The differences in perspectives are, to some extent, regional, pointing to different dominant attitudes between North America, Europe, and other regions.

This report from the Alignment Assembly on AI and the Commons begins with an explanation of our methodology. We then review the results of the proposed principles for regulating generative AI, followed by an analysis of the key areas of consensus. We conclude with an analysis of the key differences between the two opinion groups.


Read the report


Shannon Y Hong
Alek Tarkowski
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