Since ChatGPT’s popularity exploded last year, Silicon Valley titans have been in a race to be at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence.
Yet lawmakers in Washington have struggled to keep up with technology, which they are only beginning to understand.
On Wednesday, both sides are set to clash in one of the tech industry’s most proactive shows of strength in the nation’s capital. Elon Musk of Tesla, , organized by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, along with labor leaders and civil society groups.
The closed-door meeting is the first in a series of intensive lessons on artificial intelligence for lawmakers. Beyond that, it’s an opportunity for technology leaders representing companies collectively worth more than $6.5 trillion to influence the direction of AI as questions swirl about its transformative and risky effects. And it’s an opportunity to be seen as relevant and on the cutting edge of technology.
This is a busy time for Congress, Schumer said in a posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, before the meeting. We need AI experts, ethicists, labor leaders, civil rights groups, academia, defense and beyond to help us in the work ahead.
The meeting marks a year of rapid developments in the field of artificial intelligence, during which lawmakers and regulators grappled with how the technology could alter jobs, spread misinformation and potentially develop its own kind of intelligence. While Europe grapples with drafting laws to regulate artificial intelligence, the United States has lagged behind. But the frenzy over the technology has prompted the White House, Congress and regulatory agencies to respond with AI safeguards and other measures.
The White House is expected to release an executive order on artificial intelligence this year and has held numerous meetings with tech industry executives in recent months. This week it announced that a total of 15 companies have agreed to voluntary safety and security standards for their AI tools, including third-party security testing.
Last week, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, announced a framework for AI legislation that calls for an independent office to oversee AI, as well as requirements for licensing and safety standards for the technology.
Tech executives have positioned themselves to shape AI regulations, but they disagree on what the rules should look like. Altman, CEO of OpenAI, which makes the ChatGPT chatbot, has met with more than 100 lawmakers in the past year. In May, at a Senate hearing, he said he supported the creation of an AI regulatory agency, licensing requirements and safety standards.
Yet IBM and Google do not agree with the establishment of a separate agency for artificial intelligence. In April, Musk, who has called for a moratorium on the development of certain artificial intelligence systems, also met with Schumer and other lawmakers to discuss artificial intelligence.
Tech executives may compete for airtime at Wednesday’s meeting. Schumer invited 22 guests and all 100 senators to attend the forum, which will take place in the Kennedy Caucus Room, where hearings on the sinking of the Titanic, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Watergate scandal took place.
There will be two six-hour sessions, with most technical leaders gathering for the morning session to make opening statements and participate in a discussion moderated by Schumer. Schumer acknowledged the technological knowledge deficit within Congress and said he will rely on Silicon Valley leaders, academics and public interest groups to teach members about the technology.
In an interview this week, Hawley said he worries that tech companies have too much influence over regulatory discussions and criticized Schumer’s decision to hold the AI meeting behind closed doors.
This is the largest gathering of monopolists since the Gilded Age and I’m disappointed it’s not happening in public and not in a real hearing, he said.
Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, who will help moderate the forum, said leaders are critical to congressional education.
What we don’t want to do is regulate from the point of not having good information, he said at a Washington Post event Tuesday.
Labor leaders and civil society groups have complained about the tech sector’s rush to launch new products that could threaten jobs or steal intellectual property and that have disrupted education.
Workers are tired of being guinea pigs in a live experiment on artificial intelligence, said Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO union, who will be at the meeting. The labor movement knows that AI can empower workers and increase prosperity, but only if workers are at the center of its creation and the rules that govern it.
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