In a significant development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has announced the open-source availability of its large-scale AI model, Falcon 40B. This step positions the UAE as a global frontrunner, being among the first nations to make a large language model freely available for both research and commercial use.
The announcement came from the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), the government body spearheading technological innovation in the emirate. This move is a testament to the UAE’s strategic investment in advanced technology, bolstering its stature as a leading global hub for AI innovation.
The Falcon 40B is a state-of-the-art large language model (LLM) with a staggering 40 billion parameters, trained on an extensive dataset of one trillion tokens. The Technology Innovation Institute (TII), a dedicated research center within ATRC, developed this groundbreaking model. Generative AI models, such as Falcon 40B, power various applications, from chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT to more sophisticated, AI-driven tools used in industries like healthcare, engineering, and coding.
Speaking on the open-source decision, Faisal Al Bannai, ATRC Secretary General, emphasized the council’s intent to accelerate the use of AI within the global community. “We wanted to contribute to the community, to accelerate the use of AI,” Bannai, who also serves as the chairman of EDGE, told Reuters.
The UAE’s commitment to tech innovation is not new. Over the past few years, Abu Dhabi’s government has invested heavily in developing its technology sector. It has birthed companies such as G42, an AI and cloud computing powerhouse, and the aforementioned EDGE. With the Falcon 40B, it further manifests its pioneering vision to democratize access to AI resources for the betterment of societies and industries around the world.
In this unique initiative, the emirate’s commercial investment arm, VentureOne, has further expressed interest in backing any viable ideas emerging from the use of Falcon 40B. This aligns with ATRC’s vision to create an AI ecosystem that bridges the gap between research and application.
Unlike the typical practice of providing exclusive licenses to non-commercial users, TII aims to democratize the access to Falcon 40B. As Ebtesam Almazrouei, a director at TII, highlighted, they aspire to expand generative AI usage beyond chatbots and into areas such as engineering, healthcare, sustainability, and coding.
As AI products become increasingly commonplace, questions about their ethical and societal implications inevitably arise. The race to deploy AI tools has triggered concerns about potential privacy violations, scams, and misinformation campaigns. Addressing these concerns, Bannai stated that deploying these platforms under their own parameters allows for stringent data privacy controls. “Deploying these platforms on their own parameters, to train, means we don’t have access to the data going into these platforms,” he said, demonstrating the council’s commitment to ethical AI use.
The launch of Falcon 40B as an open-source tool represents a milestone for the UAE in its ambitious journey towards AI leadership. It also sets an encouraging precedent for other nations and institutions worldwide, heralding a new era where research and commercial utilization of AI becomes increasingly democratized. While the journey is undoubtedly fraught with challenges, the UAE’s pioneering steps in this direction affirm its commitment to fostering an environment conducive to technological innovation and progress.
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