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Tech CEOs agree on the need for AI regulation at a rare summit

Schumer hosts a private forum with tech leaders

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer organized a private forum on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, as part of his push to legislate artificial intelligence (AI). He invited almost two dozen tech executives, advocates and skeptics to discuss the priorities and risks surrounding AI and how it should be regulated.

Among the attendees were Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk. Schumer said he asked everyone in the room whether government should have a role in the oversight of AI, and “every single person raised their hands, even though they had diverse views,” he said.

The challenges and opportunities of AI regulation

The participants discussed various ideas for AI regulation, such as whether there should be an independent agency to oversee certain aspects of the rapidly-developing technology, how companies could be more transparent and how the United States can stay ahead of China and other countries in AI innovation.

Tech CEOs agree on the need for AI regulation at a rare summit

Schumer said Congress should do what it can to maximize AI’s benefits and minimize the negatives, “whether that’s enshrining bias, or the loss of jobs, or even the kind of doomsday scenarios that were mentioned in the room. And only government can be there to put in guardrails.”

Musk, who has been vocal about the potential dangers of AI, said the meeting “might go down in history as being very important for the future of civilization.” He said the key point was really that it’s important for us to have a referee. “It was a very civilized discussion, actually, among some of the smartest people in the world,” he said.

The political path for AI legislation is difficult

However, despite the apparent consensus on the need for AI regulation, there is little agreement on what regulation would look like, and the political path for legislation is difficult. Congress has a lackluster track record when it comes to regulating new technology, and the industry has grown mostly unchecked by government in the past several decades. Many lawmakers point to the failure to pass any legislation surrounding social media, such as for stricter privacy standards.

Schumer acknowledged that AI regulation will be “one of the most difficult issues we can ever take on,” and he listed some of the reasons why: It’s technically complicated, it keeps changing and it “has such a wide, broad effect across the whole world,” he said.

He said he will not necessarily take the tech executives’ advice as he works with colleagues on the politically difficult task of ensuring some oversight of the burgeoning sector. But he invited them to the meeting in hopes that they would give senators some realistic direction for meaningful regulation.

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