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Senators to get AI lessons ahead of regulation decisions

The ChatGPT website on an iPhone.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set up a series of briefings aimed at educating senators about artificial intelligence (AI), insisting that his colleagues must “deepen our expertise in this pressing topic.”

The move comes as U.S. lawmakers consider how to regulate the new wave of fast-evolving AI technology behind powerful chatbot tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

With some senators perhaps struggling to get to grips with the new tools and to fully understand the profound societal effects of AI predicted by experts, the technology lessons should be warmly welcomed.

The sessions will take place in the coming weeks and cover three topics, specifically:

  • Where is AI today?
  • What is the frontier of AI and how do we maintain American leadership?
  • How do the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community use AI today and what do we know about how our adversaries are using AI?

Announcing the briefings in a message shared online, Schumer described recent advances in AI as “astounding,” adding: “From helping the paralyzed walk again to allowing anyone to be a computer programmer, the technological breakthroughs are happening on almost a daily basis. As AI transforms our world, the Senate must keep abreast of the extraordinary potential, and risks, AI presents.”

Schumer noted how some AI experts have “repeatedly told us that it will have a profound impact on everything from our national security to our classrooms to our workforce, including potentially significant job displacement,” while others, such as Geoffrey Hinton, known as “the godfather of AI” for his pioneering work in the field, have painted a darker picture, fearing that if the technology isn’t handled with care, it could be catastrophic for the human race.

Republican Congressman Jay Obernolte raised concerns about lawmakers’ lack of knowledge of AI in March when he said that some of his colleagues were struggling to keep up with the rapid developments in the field, making it a challenge to bring in effective laws to regulate the technology.

Obernolte, who has a master’s degree in AI, said that he often has to explain to colleagues that “the chief dangers of AI will not come from evil robots with red lasers coming out of their eyes.”

The upcoming briefings will hopefully help senators to better understand the finer points of the new wave of AI tools and their implications for society, though one has to hope that those wrestling with the subject will do some extra work in their own time so that when it comes to regulating AI, the rules will be relevant, effective, and fair.

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