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Congress Questions OpenAI CEO on Risks of AI

Congress Questions OpenAI CEO on Risks of AI

Sarah Hardacre
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, testified in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee last Tuesday. Joined by IBM Chief Privacy & Trust Officer Christina Montgomery and Gary Marcus, a professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, the three discussed the dangers and need for regulations around AI.

The conversation was less contentious than previous sessions with tech leaders, likely because all of the experts agreed that regulations are needed to ensure AI doesn’t pose a threat to society.

Altman has always been clear about the risks and ethical questions surrounding AI, saying “I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong… we want to be vocal about that, we want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.”

He proposed a three-point plan for AI regulations. The first was a proposal to create a federal agency to set and enforce the rules of AI. Second, this agency should set clear rules around what AI can and cannot do, as well as defining the tests models would need to pass before release. And finally, the need for independent auditors to verify the AI systems conform to the legislation.

The session lasted nearly three hours, and the three experts addressed a wide range of questions, from apprehensions related to elections to concerns about training language models with copyrighted content.

Senators asked questions about inclusivity, how to deploy applications across cultures, and how AI could impact the military and change warfare as we know it. However, more aggressive questions related to OpenAI – such as why OpenAI made ChatGPT publicly despite its many issues – went unasked.

While Altmann was clear that there is a need to regulate AI, he was also clear that he did not support the open letter from the Future of Life Institute calling for a six month halt to powerful AI experiments.

One of the main outcomes of the session was the need for regulators to act quickly, and this will likely be the first in a number of sessions to ensure the right protections are put in place.

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