OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is set to testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday after the viral success of ChatGPT, his company’s chatbot tool, renewed an arms race over artificial intelligence and sparked concerns from some lawmakers about the risks posed by the technology.
“Artificial intelligence urgently needs rules and safeguards to address its immense promise and pitfalls,” said Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate panel on privacy and technology. “This hearing begins our Subcommittee’s work in overseeing and illuminating AI’s advanced algorithms and powerful technology.”
He added: “I look forward to working with my colleagues as we explore sensible standards and principles to help us navigate this uncharted territory.”
A growing list of tech companies have deployed new AI tools in recent months, with the potential to change how we work, shop and interact with each other. But these same tools have also drawn criticism from some of tech’s biggest names for their potential to disrupt millions of jobs, spread misinformation and perpetuate biases.
Also testifying Tuesday will be Christina Montgomery, IBM’s vice president and chief privacy and trust officer, as well as Gary Marcus, a former New York University professor and a self-described critic of AI “hype.”
Montgomery is expected to urge Congress to adopt a “precision regulation” approach for AI based on specific use cases, and to suggest that lawmakers push companies to test how their systems handle bias and other concerns – and disclose those results.
As the CEO of OpenAI, Altman, perhaps more than any other single figure, has come to serve as a face for a new crop of AI products that can generate images and texts in response to user prompts.
Earlier this month, Altman was one of several tech CEOs to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and, briefly, President Joe Biden as part of the White House’s efforts to emphasize the importance of ethical and responsible AI development.
In interviews this year, Altman has presented himself as someone who is mindful of the risks posed by AI and even “a little bit scared” of the technology. He and his company have pledged to move forward responsibly.
Others want Altman and OpenAI to move more cautiously. Elon Musk, who helped found OpenAI before breaking from the group, joined dozens of tech leaders, professors and researchers in signing a letter calling for artificial intelligence labs like OpenAI to stop the training of the most powerful AI systems for at least six months, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.”
Altman has said he agreed with parts of the letter. “I think moving with caution and an increasing rigor for safety issues is really important,” Altman said at an event last month. “The letter I don’t think was the optimal way to address it.”
– CNN’s Jennifer Korn contributed to this report.