Mozilla, the not-for-profit behind the Firefox browser, has launched a new AI-focused startup called Mozilla.ai, with a mission to create trustworthy AI that’s open source. The firm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, and its board members include Karim Lakhani, Credo Navrina Singh and the head of Mozilla.ai, Mark Surman.
Initially, the priority will be building a team of 25 engineers, scientists and product managers to work on “trustworthy” recommendation systems and large language models along the lines of OpenAI’s GPT-4. The company’s broader ambition is to establish a network of allied companies and research groups to create a “trust first” open source AI stack.
Mozilla.ai isn’t a non-profit, and aims to spin out its more successful explorations into products and companies in addition to open-source projects.
As we head into the AI era, it’s crucial that firms focus on building trustworthy AI for real-world applications. In recent months, we’ve seen a rash of AI models that are impressive in their capabilities but have worrisome real-world implications.
Surman believes there is a commercial market for trustworthy AI, and that this market needs to grow if we want to shift how the industry builds AI into the apps, products and services we all use every day. “Mozilla.ai — working loosely with many allied companies, researchers and governments — [has] the opportunity to collectively create a ‘trust first’ open source AI stack. If we’re successful, the mainstream of industry would pull from this stack as a part of their regular toolkit, just as they have with the Linux and Apache stack over the last two decades.”
Mozilla is renowned for its ethical principles and has been working on trustworthy AI for five years, hoping that other industry players with more AI expertise would step up to build more trustworthy tech. Unfortunately, this has not happened. Thus, Mozilla.ai aims to fill this void by building trustworthy AI that’s open source. Draief sees this as a plus rather than a disadvantage, arguing that it gives Mozilla.ai flexibility that nonprofits lack. To his point, there’s cautionary tales like OpenAI, which was founded as a nonprofit in 2015 but was later forced to transition to a “capped-profit” structure in order to fund its ongoing research.