OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Urges Congress for AI Regulation Amidst Fears of Potential Risks

During the hearing on Capitol Hill, lawmakers expressed their fears about AI advancements, as exemplified by a prominent senator who commenced the session with a computer-generated voice reading a text authored by the bot.

Speaking before US lawmakers, Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI's ChatGPT, stressed the imperative of regulating artificial intelligence. This call to action came after his poem-writing chatbot garnered worldwide attention with its remarkable abilities.

Lawmakers voiced their deepest concerns regarding the advancements in AI during the Capitol Hill hearing. To illustrate their apprehensions, a prominent senator commenced the session by reading a text written by the bot, using a computer-generated voice that strikingly resembled their own.

Altman's warning

"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," said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

"Artificial intelligence technologies 'are more than just research experiments. They are no longer fantasies of science fiction, they are real and present,' said Blumenthal, a Democrat."

Altman's testimony before a US Senate judiciary subcommittee presented a contrasting scene compared to the intense questioning faced by the executives of Facebook or TikTok during their visits to Washington. As a prominent figure emerging from Silicon Valley, Altman's appearance offered a different tone and atmosphere.

"If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong," Altman said.

Altman seized the occasion to enlighten lawmakers, using the session as a platform to advocate for the implementation of new regulations on significant technology companies. This plea comes in spite of long-standing political divisions that have hindered internet regulation legislation for an extended period.

ChatGPT's recent impact

Following the viral release of ChatGPT, a bot capable of generating human-like content instantaneously, governments across the globe are facing mounting pressure to respond swiftly. The bot's remarkable abilities have simultaneously amazed and unsettled users, prompting a need for prompt action.

Altman, assuming the role of a global ambassador for AI, continues to promote his company's technology, including collaborations with Microsoft and numerous other firms. However, he also remains vigilant about the potential negative impacts of such advancements on society, issuing cautionary warnings alongside his endeavours.

"OpenAI was founded on the belief that artificial intelligence has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives, but also that it creates serious risks," Altman told the hearing.

Altman’s proposals

Altman proposed that the US government explore the possibility of implementing a combination of licensing and testing prerequisites prior to the release of robust AI models. He further emphasized the potential to revoke permits in cases of rule violations.

Additionally, Altman advocated for the adoption of labelling practices and enhanced international collaboration in establishing regulations for AI. He also put forth the idea of establishing a dedicated US agency responsible for overseeing artificial intelligence matters.

"I think the US should lead here and do things first, but to be effective, we do need something global," he added.

Transparency demands for generative AI: Lawmakers' deliberations

Significantly for OpenAI, US lawmakers emphasized their intention to classify generative AI systems like ChatGPT and DALL-E into a distinct category that necessitates specific transparency measures. This includes notifying users that the content they receive was generated by an AI system.

OpenAI's DALL-E garnered attention last year when it triggered an online frenzy to create Van Gogh-like images. It has enabled the generation of illustrations and graphics through simple requests, demonstrating its creative potential.

Lawmakers were also cautioned about the nascent stage of the technology, highlighting the fact that it is still in its early phases of development.

"There are more genies yet to come for more bottles," said New York University professor emeritus Gary Marcus, another panellist.

"We don't have machines that can really... improve themselves. We don't have machines that have self-awareness, and we might not ever want to go there," he said.