OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Has Told U.S. Regulators That Regulation Is Critical For AI

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, emphasized the crucial need for government regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) during his testimony before legislators in the United States. Altman urged Congress to establish new regulations for big tech, despite the longstanding political divisions that have hindered internet regulation efforts.

OpenAI gained significant attention when it released ChatGPT, a chatbot tool that provides remarkably human-like responses, generating initial concerns about academic cheating but expanding to broader worries about the potential of “generative AI” tools to mislead, spread misinformation, infringe upon the copyright, and disrupt certain job sectors.

“If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong,” Altman, who has become the global face of AI, told the hearing.

“OpenAI was founded on the belief that artificial intelligence has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives, but also that it creates serious risks,” he said, but given concerns about disinformation, job security, and other dangers, “we think that regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigating the risks of increasingly powerful models”.

The legislators expressed their deep concerns regarding AI’s advancements. One prominent senator opened the Capitol Hill hearing by using a computer-generated voice that closely resembled his own, reading a text composed by the chatbot.

“If you were listening from home, you might have thought that voice was mine and the words from me, but in fact, that voice was not mine,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

“What if I had asked it, and what if it had provided, an endorsement of Ukraine surrendering or [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s leadership?”

While acknowledging the tremendous potential of AI tools, Altman proposed that the US government consider a combination of licensing and testing requirements for the release of more powerful AI models. He also recommended labeling and increased global coordination to establish rules for the technology.

 “I think the US should lead here and do things first, but to be effective we do need something global,” he added.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, highlighted the significant implications of AI for elections, jobs, and national security. He viewed the hearing as a crucial first step towards understanding the appropriate actions Congress should take.

Senator Blumenthal pointed out the considerable progress made by Europe with the AI Act, which is scheduled for a vote at the European Parliament next month. This extensive legislation could potentially introduce bans on biometric surveillance, emotion recognition, and specific AI systems used in policing.

OpenAI, co-founded by Altman in 2015 with the support of tech billionaire Elon Musk, has transitioned from a nonprofit research lab with a focus on safety to a business entity. Their popular AI products include the image generator DALL-E. Microsoft has made significant investments in OpenAI, integrating the technology into its own products, such as the Bing search engine.

Altman has planned a worldwide tour this month, visiting national capitals and major cities across six continents, to engage with policymakers and the public in discussions about AI.

“There are more genies yet to come for more bottles,” said New York University professor emeritus Gary Marcus, another panelist.

“We don’t have machines that can really … improve themselves. We don’t have machines that have self-awareness, and we might not ever want to go there,” he said.

During the hearing on Capitol Hill, politicians were also cautioned about the early stages of AI technology and its potential implications.

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