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Ashlee Vance explores innovations in new tech, software, engineering, and science in places outside of Silicon Valley.
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Christoph Schuhmann outside the Gymnasium Klosterschule school in Hamburg, Germany.
Photographer: Maria Feck/Bloomberg
With over five billion images, LAION has become central to the future of artificial intelligence — and a growing debate over how to regulate it.
Marissa Newman and
In front of a suburban house on the outskirts of the northern Germany city of Hamburg, a single word — “LAION” — is scrawled in pencil across a mailbox. It’s the only indication that the home belongs to the person behind a massive data gathering effort central to the artificial intelligence boom that has seized the world's attention.
That person is high school teacher Christoph Schuhmann, and LAION, short for “Large-scale AI Open Network,” is his passion project. When Schuhmann isn’t teaching physics and computer science to German teens, he works with a small team of volunteers building the world’s biggest free AI training data set, which has already been used in text-to-image generators such as Google’s Imagen and Stable Diffusion.