Tech moguls, lawmakers hold Senate hearing on AI amid its rapid rise

 Technology bigwigs and senators sat down for a closed-door hearing on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on different facets of society.

The Sept. 13 AI Insight Forum in Washington, D.C. was convened under the leadership of a bipartisan group of senators. The group included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). Prior to the event, Schumer disclosed that the forum is just "the first of a series of forums that will give our committees the knowledge base and thought insights to draft the right kind of policies."

Big Tech moguls in attendance included X's Elon Musk, Meta's Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet's Sundar Pichai, OpenAI's Sam Altman and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt also joined.  

The hearing also saw attendees from outside the technology sector, including Motion Picture Association CEO Charles Rivkin and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Schumer said on Sept. 7  that the hearing, the first in a series, would equip congressional committees with the necessary knowledge and insights to draft appropriate AI policies.

"Both parties recognize that AI is something we can’t ignore, but we need a lot of help understanding the best way forward," the New York senator said. "It will be a meeting unlike any other that we have seen in the Senate in a very long time, perhaps ever. A coming together of top voices in business, civil rights, defense, research, labor, the arts, all together, in one room, having a much-needed conversation about how Congress can tackle AI."

Critics question AI hearing's transparency

But critics questioned the hearing over its transparency, given that members of the media and the general public were not invited. The fact that tech leaders were invited instead of researchers and ethicists also sparked questions about the conference.

Moreover, speculation on why the Sept. 13 hearing leaned heavily toward business interests instead of unbiased and safe AI regulation piqued the skepticism of critics. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined the chorus of those questioning the AI forum.

"Those tech billionaires want to lobby Congress behind closed doors with no questions asked. That's just plain wrong," she remarked. According to the senator for the Bay State, this could allow tech giants to shape regulations to their advantage.

Altman's presence in the Sept. 13 hearing also drew scrutiny. He had previously testified before Senators during a public hearing in May over his links to ChatGPT. The OpenAI CEO proposed government intervention in the form of an oversight agency, independent auditors and deployment standards to ensure that regulation does not stifle innovation while mitigating the risks of AI.

Prominent AI researcher Gary Marcus stressed the importance of genuine transparency on the issue. He also expressed reservations about Big Tech's influence on regulation. Marcus, a professor emeritus of psychology and neural science at New York University, had previously testified at the May hearing alongside Altman.

"Putting it bluntly – if we have the right regulations, things could go well. If we have the wrong regulations, things could go badly," he said at the time. "If Big Tech writes the rules without external input, we are unlikely to end up with the right rules."

"The Big Tech companies' preferred plan boils down to 'Trust us.' The current systems are not transparent; they do not protect our privacy, and they continue to perpetuate bias. Even their makers don't entirely understand how they work. Most of all, we cannot remotely guarantee that they're safe."

Tech moguls, lawmakers hold Senate hearing on AI amid its rapid rise Tech moguls, lawmakers hold Senate hearing on AI amid its rapid rise Reviewed by Your Destination on September 23, 2023 Rating: 5

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