Tech Leaders Gather For Closed Senate Summit On AI

Senior figures within the tech industry gathered on Wednesday in Washington DC to discuss with US politicians the thorny issue of artificial intelligence (AI).

Tech leaders attending the meeting included Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet boss Sundar Pichai, Tesla’s Elon Musk, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and Microsoft’s former CEO Bill Gates and current CEO Satya Nadella.

The CEOs of IBM, Nvidia, and Palantir also attended.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hosted the panel of tech executives, labour and civil rights leaders as part of the Senate’s inaugural “AI Insight Forum”, which was held behind closed doors.

AI Insight Forum

Tech leaders reportedly called for balanced regulation of the technology, and there was said to be universal agreement about the need for government regulation of AI.

Earlier in the year, the US Chamber of Commerce had called for the regulation of artificial intelligence technology – a surprising stance considering its traditional anti-regulatory stance of the business lobby group.

At the event, Mark Zuckerberg said the US Congress “should engage with AI to support innovation and safeguards. This is an emerging technology, there are important equities to balance here, and the government is ultimately responsible for that.”

Zuckerberg added it was “better that the standard is set by American companies that can work with our government to shape these models on important issues.”

Meanwhile Elon Musk, according to Reuters, called for a US “referee” to ensure the safe use of AI.

“It’s important for us to have a referee,” Musk told reporters, comparing it to sports. The billionaire, added that a regulator would “ensure that companies take actions that are safe and in the interest of the general public.”

“It was a very civilized discussion actually among some of the smartest people in the world,” Musk told reporters on his way out. “Sen. Schumer did a great service to humanity here along with the support of the rest of the Senate. And I think something good will come of this.”

Musk confirmed he had called AI “a double-edged sword” during the forum.

In March, Musk and a group of AI experts and executives had called for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-4, citing potential risks to society.

In April Elon Musk had met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other US lawmakers about artificial intelligence regulation.

Four areas

Meanwhile Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai outlined four areas where US lawmakers could play an important role in the development of AI in the years ahead. First by crafting policies that support innovation, including through research and development investment or immigration laws that incentivise talented workers to come to the US.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai

Second, “by driving greater use of AI in government;” third by applying AI to big problems like detecting cancer; and finally by “advancing a workforce transition agenda that benefits everyone.”

Schumer was quoted by Reuters as saying the panel was attended by more than 60 US senators, and that the closed forum allowed for an open discussion among the attendees, without the normal time and format restrictions of a public hearing.

But Schumer said some future forums would be open to public view.

“We are beginning to really deal with one of the most significant issues facing the next generation and we got a great start on it today,” Chuck Schumer was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters after the meetings. “We have a long way to go.”

AI Safety Summit

Meanwhile a global AI Safety Summit is to be held at the world famous Bletchley Park on 1 and 2 November 2023.

It will be the first major international summit of its kind on the safe use of artificial intelligence, and will host talks “to explore and build consensus on rapid, international action to advance safety at the frontier of AI technology.”

The summit comes after multiple calls from some AI experts about the risks of ungoverned development of AI systems in the years ahead.

In July the issue of AI was discussed the United Nations Security Council, as nations and governments around the world grapple over its regulation and governance.

The UK under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed with President Biden in June to host an international summit on the risks and regulation of AI later this year.

The UK PM also said he wanted the UK to be the “geographical home” of coordinated international efforts to regulate AI.

The UK has already set out its plan to regulate the artificial intelligence (AI) sector and proposed five principles to guide its use via its “adaptable” AI plan, so as to not stifle innovation.

Other governments and nations are at different states of proposed legislation of the technology.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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