Lawmakers in the deeply divided 118th Congress appear to have found some common ground regarding artificial intelligence (AI). Various legislators have indicated they would like to see some form of regulation to rein in the rapidly growing sector on the heels of a startling warning from leaders in the tech industry.
“I think what you have to do is to identify what is not allowed in terms of ethics and illegal activities, whether it is AI or not — you impose on AI activities the same level of ethics and privacy that you do for other competencies today,” said Senator Mike Rounds, one of the leaders on the Senate AI Caucus.
Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chair pointed out that the committee had recently held a hearing on the “pros and cons” of AI technology.
“I intend to have a series of hearings in Homeland Security and Government Affairs taking up AI and what we should be thinking about,” added Peters.
The warning comes on the heels of a dramatic letter signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, and other giants in the tech industry calling for a six-month pause to more advanced AI developments, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.”
Dem Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who sent a letter last week to tech company leaders calling for them to consider the safety of children when rolling out AI systems, including chatbots, suggested an agency be formed to regulate the almost restriction-free AI industry “in the long term.”
However, for now, the senator said that the companies must police themselves.
“I think we do have a role to play,” said Bennet when asking if Congress should step in to regulate AI. “In the long run, I think what we could do is set up, you know, an agency here. They can negotiate on behalf of the American people, so we can actually have a negotiation about privacy…In the near term, I think it’s going to be important for tech to police itself.”
“Congress has to sink its teeth into what to do about it. We’ve worked with [Retired Senator Bob Portman, R-Ohio] to establish a law for AI, a commission for AI in government,” said Dem. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “I think we should do something broader for AI throughout the private sector. But I think the first step is recognize that this is a legitimate area for federal policy.”
In earlier comments, GOP Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota questioned whether existing laws were enough to cover the fast-growing sector.
“So if you’re in a business, you know that there are certain rules you can’t break,” said Rounds. “Those same things need to be applied to AI. The question is, do we have the appropriate language in the law today to address the things that AI might create that we haven’t thought about in our existing law?”
House Reps also urge Congress to take the reins on AI
In the House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, who has been a leader in the efforts to crack down on Bid Tech, also urged the House to take the reins.
“With the emergence of AI comes both opportunity and challenges. We have seen the impact and consequences of a decade of inaction on Big Tech. Congress cannot afford to be caught sleeping at the wheel again. AI has great promise but, left unscrutinized, could be used to spread propaganda, dangerously restructure our economy, and increase the size of current Big Tech monopolies,” said Buck.
However, GOP Senator JD Vance of Ohio broke from his colleagues in the Senate to caution them not to rush any action before understanding the complicated technology.
“It’s way too early to say what role Congress should take. I think right now; we need to understand this a little bit better. And, you know, look — we’re in the very early days of this process,” said Vance. “So, I wouldn’t want to commit to a congressional strategy before we even understand the problem.”