Open knowledge, AI and algorithms: a new commitment from the Open Knowledge Foundation

Catherine Stihler, the CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation, has today announced that the organisation is making a new commitment to apply our unique skills and network to the emerging issues of AI and algorithms.

Find out more in Catherine’s blogpost:

If you want to comment, contribute or collaborate on this programme, get in touch with us at

UPDATE: Thanks to our friends at Open Knowledge Brazil, this post is now available in Portuguese.

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As someone who works at the intersection of FOSS and open data, this is a fantastic initiative. A couple of comments.


These issues apply not only to AI methods and algorithms, they also apply to fully deterministic system simulations. And that is a large and established field: computable general equilibrium (in economics), integrated assessment (as used by the IPCC), energy systems (my interest), life cycle assessment, infectious disease propagation, and so on. Indeed any type of numerical model where the outputs are non‑intuitive relative to the inputs. That being, in fact, the common definition of complexity.

Not sure how OKFN should handle this wider brief? Assuming that that is your intention, of course. Probably no need to change the title but rather by making clear the wider scope when defining the project.

Intellectual property

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently released an issues paper on AI and intellectual property (which I have yet to read). Did OKFN respond to the public consultation? Creative Commons did (Vézina 2020), along with circa 250 other parties.

One issue is can and should machines hold copyright. Ramalho (2018) observes that “international treaties do not provide a definition of authorship” but that “an argument could be made that the international norms are crafted to cater for a human author”.

There are also very significant issues that need attention in the context of AI which concern ethics and privacy and which lie beyond the scope of copyright law and related policy. For real life examples, I thoroughly recommend Wylie (2019) on the workings of Cambridge Analytica, and particularly the Epilogue (pp255–264) where Christopher suggests how we, collectively, might address these issues.


Ramalho, Ana (12 November 2018). Ex machina, ex auctore? Machines that create and how EU copyright law views them. Kluwer Copyright Blog. Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands.

WIPO Secretariat (13 December 2019). Draft issues paper on intellectual property policy and artificial intelligence — WIPO/IP/AI/2/GE/20/1. Geneva, Switzerland: World Intellectual Property Organization.

Vézina, Brigitte (14 February 2020). WIPO consultation on artificial intelligence and intellectual property policy — Submission by Creative Commons. Creative Commons.

Vézina, Brigitte and Diane Peters (20 February 2020). Why we’re advocating for a cautious approach to copyright and artificial intelligence. Creative Commons.

Wylie, Christopher (October 2019). Mindf*ck: inside Cambridge Analytica’s plot to break the world. London, United Kingdom: Profile Books. ISBN 978-178816-506-8. Export edition.