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OpenAI CEO testifies before Congress and advocates for AI regulation in elections

The Senate Judiciary Committee has recently held a hearing to scrutinise the guidelines surrounding artificial intelligence (AI). Chair of the Committee, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, emphasised the urgent need for rules and safeguards to navigate the tremendous potential and pitfalls of AI. “This hearing begins our Subcommittee’s work in overseeing and illuminating AI’s advanced algorithms and powerful technology,” he stated. Among those called to testify were notable figures from the field of AI, including Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI; Gary Marcus, Professor Emeritus at New York University; and Christina Montgomery, Vice President and Chief Privacy and Trust Officer at IBM.

OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, addressed the panel raising concerns about the potential misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) in undermining election integrity. Altman, who leads the startup behind the AI model ChatGPT, emphasised the urgency for regulations in the rapidly evolving AI landscape.

Expressing his apprehension, Altman said, “I am nervous about it,” regarding the implications of AI on elections. He stressed the necessity for appropriate rules and guidelines.

The AI industry has been in a frenzy over recent months, with corporations of all sizes vying to develop increasingly advanced AI, investing billions of dollars and vast quantities of data. Critics, however, have expressed concerns about the potential of AI to magnify societal issues, such as prejudice and misinformation. More extreme viewpoints have suggested that AI might pose an existential threat to humanity.

Senator Cory Booker reflected on the unstoppable momentum of AI technology, stating, “There’s no way to put this genie in the bottle. Globally, this is exploding.” The senator was among many lawmakers questioning the best approach to AI regulation.

The looming threat of misinformation, especially in the context of the 2024 election, was highlighted by Senator Mazie Hirono. She cited a viral, fabricated image of former President Trump being arrested by the NYPD, pressing Altman for his view on the matter.

In response, Altman emphasised the responsibility of creators to clearly indicate when an image has been artificially generated, rather than being factual.

Addressing Congress for the first time, the OpenAI CEO proposed that the US should explore licensing and testing requirements for AI model development. When asked which AI models should be subject to licensing, Altman cited those that can persuade or manipulate a person’s beliefs as a “great threshold.”

Altman also shared his views on data usage for AI training. He suggested that companies should have the right to refuse the use of their data for AI training purposes, while material on the public web would be considered fair game. In terms of monetisation, Altman expressed a preference for subscription-based models over advertising but did not rule out the latter entirely.

US lawmakers and the White House are actively engaging with technology CEOs, including Altman, to discuss the future of AI. They aim to harness the technology’s benefits and bolster national security while simultaneously curbing its potential misuse. However, achieving consensus on the matter remains a challenge.


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