US Needs ‘Comprehensive Legislation’ to Address AI Risks, Says Senate Majority Leader Schumer

US Senate Majority Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for “comprehensive legislation” to advance and ensure safeguards on artificial intelligence (AI) and will hold a series of forums later this year.

“If the government doesn’t step in, who will fill its place? Individuals and the private sector can’t do the work of protecting our country,” Schumer said.

He pledged to convene the “top minds in artificial intelligence” starting in September to join a “series of AI Insight Forums that will begin laying down a new foundation for AI policy.”

Governments around the world are considering how to mitigate the dangers of the emerging technology and US lawmakers are increasingly urging quick action to address risks. The surging popularity of so-called generative AI, which uses data to create new content like ChatGPT’s human-sounding prose, could remake human society.

In April, Schumer circulated a framework outlining a new regulatory regime to “prevent potentially catastrophic damage to our country while simultaneously making sure the US advances and leads in this transformative technology.”

Schumer warned Wednesday “If we don’t set the norms for AI’s proper uses, others will. The Chinese Communist Party, which has little regard for the norms of democratic governance, could leap ahead of us and set the rules of the game for AI.”

Congress is narrowly divided and has not reached any consensus on AI legislation.

“Even if many developers have good intentions, there will always be rogue actors, unscrupulous companies, and foreign adversaries that seek to harm us,” Schumer said. “And companies may not be willing to insert guardrails on their own, certainly if their competitors are not required to insert them as well.”

Schumer said AI is already disrupting the way tens of millions of people make a living

“Lower-skilled tasks will keep falling victim to automation at a faster and faster rate—displacing millions of low-income workers, many from communities of color,” Schumer said. “Trucking, manufacturing, and energy production could be next. And rest assured, those with college educations and advanced degrees won’t be safe either.”

President Joe Biden said Tuesday his administration “is committed to safeguarding Americans’ rights and safety while protecting privacy, to addressing bias and misinformation, to making sure AI systems are safe before they are released.”

In April, the CEOs of ChatGPT developer OpenAI, its backer Microsoft, and Alphabet met with Biden and other officials to discuss AI.

Congress should encourage not stifle innovation, Schumer will argue: “But if people don’t think innovation can be done safely, that will stifle AI’s development and even prevent us from moving forward.” 

© Thomson Reuters 2023 

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