Dean Ball, board member of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), warns against turning the blossoming of artificial intelligence (AI) into a “closed-source” or “black box” world about whose science the public is badly uninformed. In “AI Mysticism” the most recent article for his online newsletter Hyperdimensional, Mr. Ball argues for the inadvisability of potentially heavy regulation against public availability of the models on which new developments in AI are based.

First, the public benefits are doubtful: “Any such regulation would ostensibly be passed in the name of safety, and it is unclear to me how the public being kept in the dark on these issues makes anyone safer.” Second and crucially, the regulatory benefits might come at great expense to the public’s ability to access at least partial knowledge of the specifics of artificial intelligence. As a result, the public’s trust in what AI may provide suffers.

Mr. Ball stresses that science is dangerously capable of being redefined as “the Science.” We have seen, as he explains, that “many of our elites abuse science … as much as they use it. How many times, during COVID, did we hear about what ‘the science’ told us we must do?”

“‘Science’ became a political weapon long ago,” and more recently it has “morphed into a kind of religion … some have deified science, using ‘the Science’ … as an unambiguous source of knowledge that points in one direction.” Meanwhile, others “react to this by rejecting science altogether—how many elderly conservatives needlessly died because of their refusal to take basic precautions” in the COVID pandemic?

Mr. Ball, who also runs the Hoover Institution’s State and Local Governance Initiative, favors the option of open sourcing—AI models that can be released to the public by their developers, rather than kept secret—for numerous reasons, including technological and economic ones. “But perhaps more than anything else, I worry about the societal implications of black box AI [models].”

“I suspect that AI can and will be used to achieve increasingly magical-seeming scientific feats over the coming decades, including the creation of new life forms (indeed, AI is … arguably a new life form). This is going to be a wild ride no matter what, but I worry deeply about how society will react if the tool that enables those scientific feats is itself seen as a quasi-magical black box.”