In a surprise move, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman called for lawmakers to regulate artificial intelligence technology before it’s too late.
Altman spoke before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Wednesday, where he warned that AI could pose a serious threat to society if it’s not properly controlled.
“My worst fears are that we cause significant harm to the world,” Altman said. “I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong, and we want to be vocal about that.”
It’s been less than a year since ChatGPT was released to the world – and A.I. technology can already do so much more. From speech writing and tutoring to machine learning, it can create new content such as music and art. It can even create “deep fake” videos and audio.
Altman’s comments were echoed by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) who chairs the Senate committee. Blumenthal said he was “deeply concerned” about the potential dangers of AI and that he was committed to working with Altman and other experts to develop effective regulations.
Blumenthal opened the hearing with an AI-generated greeting and audio app that impersonated his voice based on Senate floor speeches.
“Too often we have seen what happens when technology outpaces regulation,” said the deep fake audio, mimicking Blumenthal’s voice. “The unbridled exploitation of personal data – the proliferation of disinformation and the deepening of societal inequalities.”
After the presentation, Blumenthal said, “If you were listening from home, you might have thought that voice was mine, and the words from me. But in fact, that voice was not mine.”
Calls for regulation come at a time when AI technology is rapidly advancing. In recent years, AI has been used to develop new medical treatments, create self-driving cars, and even write poetry. However, as AI becomes more powerful, technology experts like Burton Kelso say it could become dangerous.
“People have to remember that this is not some self-aware program that’s storing it all in its own brain,” Kelso said. “AI information is stored on multiple servers across the globe. So the thing we have to worry about as individuals is making sure that we’re not putting personal information in AI, because at any point, either through a supply chain hack or just a hack with open AI itself. That information can be exposed to the dark web.”
Other fears include AI replacing millions of jobs. It could even falsify information for malicious gain or be used to erase key moments from history. However, one of the biggest concerns deals with national security.
“Given that we’re going to face an election next year and these models are getting better, I think this is a significant area of concern,” said Altman.
Rapid advances in AI technology are complicating efforts here and abroad to agree on laws that govern emerging technologies. China has already drafted regulations that could shape the future.
“A lot of technology comes out of China. And I think (one of the things) that we want to prevent as a country is that China rules everything,” he noted.
The debate over the regulation of AI is likely to continue for many years to come. However, Altman’s comments have helped to raise awareness of the potential dangers of this powerful technology. It’s unclear when or what kind of measures will be implemented to regulate AI and ensure it is used for good.
“This is a remarkable time to be working on artificial intelligence,” Altman said. “But as this technology advances, we understand that people are anxious about how it could change the way we live.”
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