Since the tech industry began its love affair with machine learning about a decade ago, U.S. lawmakers have chattered about the potential need for regulation to rein in the technology. No proposal to regulate corporate AI projects has got close to becoming law—but OpenAI's release of ChatGPT last November has convinced some senators that there is now an urgent need to do something to protect people's rights against the potential harms of AI technology.
At a hearing held by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday, attendees heard a terrifying laundry list of ways artificial intelligence can harm people and democracy. Senators from both parties spoke in support of creating a new arm of the U.S. government dedicated to regulating AI. The idea even got the backing of Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI.
"My worst fear is that we—the field, the technology, the industry—cause significant harm to the world," Altman said. He also endorsed the idea of AI companies submitting their AI models to testing by outsiders and said a U.S. AI regulator should have the power to grant or revoke licenses for creating AI above a certain threshold of capability.
A number of U.S. federal agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, already regulate how companies use AI. But Senator Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, said his time in Congress has convinced him that it can't keep up with the pace of technological change.
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