OpenAI’s Sam Altman Warns Congress AI Can Cause ‘Harm to the World’

OpenAI's Sam Altman Warns Congress AI Can Cause 'Harm to the World'

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman delivered a sobering account of the ways artificial intelligence could “cause significant damage to the world” during his first congressional testimony, expressing a willingness to work with nervous lawmakers to address the risks posed by his company’s ChatGPT and others AI tools present.

Altman advocated for a series of regulations, including a new government agency tasked with creating government standards for the field, to address growing concerns that generative AI could distort reality and create unprecedented security risks. The CEO spoke a litany of “risky” behaviors presented by technology like ChatGPT, including the spread of “one-on-one interactive disinformation” and emotional manipulation. At one point, he acknowledged that artificial intelligence could be used to target drone strikes.

“If this technology goes wrong, it could go terribly wrong,” Altman said.

How Sam Altman unleashed ChatGPT on an unsuspecting Silicon Valley

Still, in nearly three hours of discussion about the potentially catastrophic harms of AI, Altman confirmed that his company will continue to release the technology despite likely dangers. Rather than being ruthless, he argued that OpenAi’s “iterative implementation” of AI models gives institutions time to understand potential harms — a strategic move that puts “relatively weak” and “deeply imperfect” technology into the world to understand the associated security risks.

For weeks, Altman has been on a global goodwill tour, meeting privately with policymakers — including the Biden White House and members of Congress — to address their growing concerns with the rapid rollout of ChatGPT and other technologies. Tuesday’s hearing marked the first opportunity for the broader public to hear his message to policymakers, at a moment when Washington is increasingly grappling with ways to regulate technology that is already eliminating jobs, empowering fraud and spreading lies.

In stark contrast to contentious hearings with other tech CEOs, including TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, lawmakers from both parties gave Altman a relatively warm reception. The appeared to be in listening mode, expressing a broad willingness to listen to bills from Altman and the two other witnesses at the hearing, IBM executive Christina Montgomery and New York University professor emeritus Gary Marcus.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee expressed deep fears about the rapid development of artificial intelligence, repeatedly suggesting that recent advances could be more transformative than the advent of the Internet — or as risky as the atomic bomb.

“This is your chance, folks, to tell us how to get it right,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told the witnesses. “Please use it.”

Lawmakers from both parties expressed an openness to the idea of ​​creating a new government agency tasked with regulating artificial intelligence, although previous attempts to create a specific agency overseeing Silicon Valley have fizzled in Congress.

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