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ChatGPT chief Sam Altman testifies on AI risks to US Congress

He highlighted the risks of powerful AI models, emphasizing the need for government regulation

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman made a case for AI regulation during a Parliamentary hearing, comparing the current AI boom to a "printing press moment" that requires safeguards. Altman emphasised the need for governments to intervene and mitigate the risks associated with powerful AI models. The hearing was prompted by the success of OpenAI's chatbot, ChatGPT, which sparked concerns and an AI arms race among legislators.

Member of Parliament Richard Blumenthal demonstrated the risks of AI by playing a manipulated recording of his own voice, created with ChatGPT, highlighting the potential dangers of unregulated AI. Altman expressed concern about AI's impact on elections, voter manipulation, and disinformation campaigns. He proposed implementing a licensing and testing regime for companies developing advanced AI systems.

Christina Montgomery, IBM's Vice President and head of privacy, and Gary Marcus, a former NYU professor critical of AI hype, also testified. Montgomery warned against hasty AI development and emphasised the need to balance innovation with responsible practices. Altman and Montgomery acknowledged AI's potential to both eliminate and create jobs.

Altman recently met with Parliament lawmakers, showcasing ChatGPT's capabilities, and the cross-party attendees recognized the necessity of regulating AI. Altman has repeatedly acknowledged AI risks and pledged responsible development. However, Elon Musk and others advocate for a temporary halt to training powerful AI systems due to profound societal risks.

The Parliamentary hearing coincided with another committee's session on AI in government, indicating AI's growing significance in Parliament. Altman's interactions with high-level officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Kamala Harris and Prime Minister Joe Biden, reflect the government's focus on ethical AI development. While Altman supports caution and increased safety measures, he questions the effectiveness of the open letter calling for a training halt as the optimal approach.

Altman's testimony highlighted the urgent need for government intervention to regulate AI, acknowledging its transformative potential while emphasizing the importance of responsible development. The discussions underscore the complex challenges surrounding AI and the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between innovation and risk mitigation.