In a hearing on Capitol Hill, US lawmakers expressed their deepest concerns about the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), with Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI's ChatGPT, delivering a powerful testimony and calling for regulation.
The hearing began with a computer-generated voice, similar to that of Senator Richard Blumenthal, reading a text written by the AI 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.
He urged Congress to take action and impose new regulations on big tech, highlighting the potential risks associated with AI. Altman's appearance before the US Senate judiciary subcommittee differed from the tense grillings faced by Facebook and TikTok executives during their visits to Washington.
Artificial intelligence technologies "are more than just research experiments. They are no longer fantasies of science fiction, they are real and present," said Blumenthal, a Democrat.
The recent viral sensation of ChatGPT, a bot capable of generating human-like content instantaneously, has put governments worldwide under pressure to act swiftly. Altman has emerged as the global face of AI, simultaneously promoting his company's technology, including partnerships with Microsoft and numerous other firms, while warning about its potentially detrimental effects on society.
Altman stressed that OpenAI was founded on the belief that AI could improve various aspects of human life. However, he acknowledged the serious risks it poses, particularly concerning disinformation and job security. Altman expressed the need for regulatory intervention by governments to mitigate these risks as AI models grow increasingly powerful.
Altman proposed a combination of licensing and testing requirements for powerful AI models, suggesting the possibility of permit revocation for rule violations. He also recommended enhanced labelling and global coordination in establishing regulations for AI. Additionally, Altman advocated for the creation of a dedicated US agency to handle artificial intelligence.
While Altman believes the United States should take the lead, he emphasized the importance of global collaboration in effectively addressing the challenges posed by AI. Senator Blumenthal highlighted Europe's advancements in this regard, mentioning the upcoming vote on the AI Act in the European Parliament.
The proposed EU measure could potentially ban biometric surveillance, emotion recognition, and certain policing AI systems. Crucially, it aims to subject generative AI systems like ChatGPT and DALL-E to special transparency measures, such as notifying users that the output was generated by a machine.
Experts also cautioned that AI technology is still in its early stages. Professor Gary Marcus from New York University warned of more significant developments to come, stating,
"There are more genies yet to come for more bottles."
He emphasized that machines still lack self-improvement abilities and self-awareness, raising questions about whether pursuing such capabilities is desirable.
Christina Montgomery, IBM's Chief Privacy and Trust Officer, advised lawmakers to avoid overly broad regulations on AI. She highlighted the different societal impacts of chatbots that provide restaurant recommendations versus systems that influence credit, housing, or employment decisions.
The US Congress is now faced with the challenge of effectively regulating AI to harness its potential while mitigating the risks it presents to society. As the debate continues, the impact of big tech and the power of AI remain central topics of discussion for lawmakers and experts alike.