OpenAI’s Sam Altman urges AI regulation at Senate hearing

I’d best describe the tone of congressional hearings involving tech industry executives in recent years as hostile. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and other tech luminaries were all dressed up on Capitol Hill by lawmakers displeased with their companies.

But on Tuesday, Sam Altman, CEO of San Francisco startup OpenAI, testified before members of a Senate subcommittee hearing and largely agreed with them on the need to regulate the increasingly powerful AI technology being built within his company and others like Google and Microsoft.

The boyish-looking Mr. Altman has swapped his usual blouse and jeans for a blue suit and tie as he offers a loose framework for managing what happens next with rapidly evolving systems that some believe can fundamentally change the economy.

In his first congressional testimony, Mr. Altman implored lawmakers to regulate artificial intelligence as he showed committee members Understanding the technology, and emphasizing the deep concern that technologists and government have about the potential harms of AI.

“I think if something goes wrong with this technology, it could just go wrong. And we want to be upfront about that,” he said. “We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.”

Mr. Altman made his first public appearance on Capitol Hill as interest in artificial intelligence grew. Tech giants are pouring billions of dollars and effort into what they say is transformative technology, even amid growing concerns about the role of artificial intelligence in spreading disinformation, killing jobs and one day matching human intelligence.

This has brought technology to the spotlight in Washington. “What you’re doing has tremendous potential and enormous danger,” President Biden said this month in a meeting with a group of CEOs of artificial intelligence companies. Senior leaders in Congress have also promised to create AI regulations.

The emergence of Mr. Altman, a 38-year-old tech entrepreneur, marked his christening as a leading figure in artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence technology.

Mr Altman said his company’s technology may destroy some jobs but also create new ones, and it will be important “for the government to know how we want to mitigate that”. He proposed creating an agency that would issue licenses for the creation of large-scale AI models and regulations and safety tests that AI models must pass before being released to the public.

“We believe the benefits of the tools we have deployed so far greatly outweigh the risks, but ensuring their safety is vital to our work,” said Mr. Altmann.

But after nearly three hours of questioning at Tuesday’s hearing, it’s not clear how lawmakers will respond to the call to regulate AI. Dozens of privacy, speech and safety bills have failed due to partisan bickering and fierce opposition from tech giants.

Lawmakers have floated the idea of ​​an independent agency to oversee artificial intelligence, rules that force companies to disclose how their models work and the data sets they use, and antitrust rules to prevent companies like Microsoft and Google from monopolizing the nascent industry.

The legislators were generally friendly toward Mr. Altman, and thanked him for his private meetings with them and for his agreement to appear in session. They approached him as a teacher.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate committee, said the hearing was the first in a series to learn more about the potential benefits and harms of AI in order to finally “write the rules.” He also acknowledged the failure of Congress to keep pace with the introduction of new technologies in the past.

“Our goal is to demystify and hold accountable these new technologies to avoid some of the mistakes of the past,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Congress has failed to meet the moment on social media.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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