Senators from across the political spectrum emerged encouraged from the forum that included tech titans like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates on the future of artificial intelligence — but stressed the need for a governmental role in regulating the technology.
The session, closed to the press, lasted more than two and a half hours and lawmakers pronounced it the latest step in educating lawmakers on the emerging technology.
“AI is here and here to stay. Congress must play a role, because without Congress we will neither maximize AI’s benefits, nor minimize its risk,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in prepared remarks.
Musk offered a quick take on the governmental role after the session.
“I think the probability of there being some sort of AI regulatory agency that stands on its own, similar to the FAA or FCC, is likely at some point,” Musk said. “The consequences of AI going wrong are severe.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the tech executives to return for public testimony before his Judiciary subcommittee and said he wanted to produce comprehensive legislation by the end of the year.
“We need to do what has been done with airline safety, car safety, drug safety, medical device safety,” he told reporters. “AI safety is no different. In fact, potentially even more dangerous.”
“My goal is not an informal behind-closed-doors discussion. It’s new laws. Not bills but laws,” Blumenthal said.
Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also vowed to convene open sessions in the future.
“We’ve been working on this for several years now so I think we could get this done in the next year,” Cantwell said following the forum of the chances for legislation.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who worked with Blumenthal on a bipartisan AI framework, pronounced himself skeptical that Schumer’s talk on AI would ultimately result in floor time for legislation.
“It’s a little bit like with antitrust — the last two years — he talks about it constantly and does nothing about it. So we’ll see,” Hawley told reporters. “Part of what this is a lot of song and dance that covers the fact that actually nothing is advancing on the floor.”