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OpenAI’s Altman Faces Senate Hearing As US Lawmakers Push to Regulate AI

OpenAI’s Altman Faces Senate Hearing As US Lawmakers Push to Regulate AI

US Senators will on Tuesday interview OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as part of the government’s move to provide regulatory policies around the burgeoning AI technology taking the world by storm.

The “perils and promise” of artificial intelligence has remained a big subject around its growth. Altman will testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, as growing concern propels Congress to grill the founder in his first public congressional hearing.

Following the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3 late last year, and the unveiling of Google’s Bard, pressure has been mounting on the government to provide regulatory framework that will rein in the excesses of AI.

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Cofounder of OpenAI, Elon Musk, said the technology poses a threat to humanity and may be the end of civilization. The US concern is centered mainly on AI’s ability to sway voters as the presidential election draws near and its ability to take jobs away as adoption by tech companies grows.

With the growing concern, the government is trying to understand the technology to make adequate rules. Altman is also expected to give a closed-door briefing to House members about AI in addition to his testimony before the Senate on Tuesday.

The hearing also has Christina Montgomery, IBM’s top official for privacy and trust, and New York University professor emeritus Gary Marcus, as witnesses.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said weeks ago he is working on a regulatory blueprint amid calls by several members of the House and Senate to develop rules that govern AI.

Fox News reported that members of the subcommittee have made it clear over the last week that they want to learn more about AI to make sure it’s used safely and responsibly. The top Republican on the subcommittee, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital on Monday that he’s worried about what role AI could play in the upcoming election cycle.

“We’ve got to understand the reach of AI and its significance. I mean, I want to know, are we going to be able to have free, open and honest elections in this country going forward? Or is AI going to control the information that we’re able to get as voters that basically we’re going to be spoon-fed everything by some algorithm and the people who control it?” Hawley asked.

He is also worried that besides its tendency to take jobs, AI could deepen abuse of children using the internet.

“I want to understand better what it means for work,” Hawley said. “I mean, does this mean that that AI soon is going to be replacing workers – particularly I’m concerned about blue-collar workers – and gobbling up jobs that ought to go to our workers in this country?

“This idea that we can just trust the Big Tech companies to do the right thing is laughable. I mean, we’ve seen that with social media now. ‘Just trust us,’ they’ve been saying for years while they’ve been poisoning our kids with their imagery, with representations of suicide, leading them toward drug abuse,” Hawley added.

Fox also quoted Subcommittee Chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., saying that “Artificial intelligence urgently needs rules and safeguards to address its immense promise and pitfalls.”

“This hearing begins our subcommittee’s work in overseeing and illuminating AI’s advanced algorithms and powerful technology. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we explore sensible standards and principles to help us navigate this uncharted territory,” Blumenthal added.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., another member of the subcommittee, was quoted as saying that she plans to ask Altman about AI’s effect on content creators, specifically the music industry.

“One issue that is top of mind for Tennesseans is how generative AI is impacting the entertainment industry, especially songwriters and musicians. The content creators who call Tennessee home should be able to decide if their copyrighted songs, images, and art can be used to train AI models, or if their voice and likeness can be used,” Blackburn said in an emailed statement.

“I plan to ask Altman about how he plans to protect content creators as he develops his AI products. We know Big Tech platforms like YouTube take copyrighted content with no real hesitation – we need to make sure that OpenAI and other AI platforms don’t do that,” she said.

The hearing underlines the fact that, unlike its European counterparts, the US is yet to catch up on Ai technology to make sound regulatory rules – even though it poses immediate threats that need to be urgently addressed.

The 27 EU nations had two years ago proposed the Western world’s first AI Act, but are now considering whether to extend the rules to emerging features like chatbots.

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