Heard on Capitol Hill: ‘I can’t recall when we’ve had people come before us and plead with us to regulate them’

Washington has been all over AI this week. One highlight: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testifying strongly in favor of federal AI oversight. Another: a bipartisan bench of senators peppering Altman and two other AI experts with questions ranging from the sublime to the silly (and making some edifying points of their own).

Both episodes occurred during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law. Held Tuesday and titled “Oversight of A.I.: Rules for Artificial Intelligence,” the session produced some notable quotes. Here’s a sampler of memorable words spoken specifically about AI regulation.

‘We think that regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models.’—Sam Altman, ChatGPT mastermind

‘I can’t recall when we’ve had people representing large corporations or private sector entities come before us and plead with us to regulate them.’—Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

‘IBM urges Congress to adopt a precision regulation approach to AI. This means establishing rules to govern the deployment of AI in specific use cases, not regulating the technology itself.’—Christina Montgomery, IBM chief privacy & trust officer

‘I [asked] my ChatGPT account if Congress should regulate AI. It gave me four cons and said that, ultimately, the decision rests with Congress and deserves careful consideration.’—Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)

‘We have unprecedented opportunities here, but we are also facing a perfect storm of corporate irresponsibility, widespread deployment, lack of adequate regulation and inherent unreliability.’—Gary Marcus, New York University professor emeritus of psychology and cognitive science

‘For every success story in government regulation, you can think of five failures. I hope our experience here will be different.’—Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

‘Having seen how agencies work in this government, they usually get captured by the interests that they’re supposed to regulate; they usually get controlled by the people they’re supposed to be watching.’—Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

‘We cannot afford to be as late to responsibly regulate generative AI as we have been to social media, because the consequences, both positive and negative, will exceed those of social media by orders of magnitude.’—Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.)

‘Hypothesis No. 1: Many members of Congress do not understand artificial intelligence. Hypothesis No. 2: That absence of understanding may not prevent Congress from plunging in with enthusiasm and trying to regulate this technology in a way that could hurt this technology. Hypothesis No. 3: There is likely a berserk wing of the artificial intelligence community that intentionally or unintentionally could use artificial intelligence to kill all of us and hurt us the entire time that we are dying.’—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee has posted a video of the hearing. Tech Policy Press has posted a transcript. Also available is a transcript of Sam Altman’s prepared testimony.

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