Several tech CEOs whose companies have begun releasing products with powerful artificial-intelligence capabilities were called to a meeting at the White House Thursday to discuss the escalating nervousness around AI and calls to regulate it.
The meeting was not with President Biden, but with Vice President Kamala Harris — maybe because of her connections to the Bay Area? As the New York Times reports, the meeting lasted over an hour in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, and the attendees included Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, OpenAI’s Sam Altman, and Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei.
President Biden reportedly "stopped by" the meeting briefly.
"The private sector has an ethical, moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety and security of their products," Harris said in a statement. "And every company must comply with existing laws to protect the American people."
The meeting comes amid calls for limitations and regulations on the entire AI industry, as the technology appears to be advancing more quickly than many in Washington realized. And as the Times notes, this was the first time that questions raised by the likes of ChatGPT, Google's Bard, and Microsoft's Bing chat bot have been taking up by the White House.
Arati Prabhakar, the director of the White House office of science and technology policy, invited the CEOs to the meeting. The Times got a copy of the invite, which said, in part, "We aim to have a frank discussion of the risks we each see in current and near-term A.I. development, actions to mitigate those risks and other ways we can work together to ensure the American people benefit from advances in A.I. while being protected from its harms."
Other high-level discussions are reportedly happening in the European Union and in China about placing limits on AI — and of course in China, the communist government is mostly, initially worried about AI bots adhering to their strict censorship guidelines.
"Europe certainly isn’t sitting around, nor is China," says Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, speaking to the Times, adding, "There is a first mover advantage in policy as much as there is a first mover advantage in the marketplace."
Lina Kahn, the current chair of the Federal Trade Commission, penned a guest essay for the Times today, noting that the government was caught flat-footed over a decade ago by the rise of social media.
"The last time we found ourselves facing such widespread social change wrought by technology was the onset of the Web 2.0 era in the mid-2000s," Kahn writes. "What we initially conceived of as free services were monetized through extensive surveillance of the people and businesses that used them. The result has been an online economy where access to increasingly essential services is conditioned on the widespread hoarding and sale of our personal data."
"The trajectory of the Web 2.0 era was not inevitable — it was instead shaped by a broad range of policy choices," Kahn says. "And we now face another moment of choice. As the use of A.I. becomes more widespread, public officials have a responsibility to ensure this hard-learned history doesn’t repeat itself."
Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk went public with his desire to help shape the future of AI last month, going on Tucker Carlson's now-canceled show to talk about his current fears — which, bafflingly, aren't about bad actors scamming people or misinformation proliferating or computers seizing control of weapons of war, but mostly about AI bots being trained to be too politically correct or "woke."
Musk pledged to build is own AI, which he was calling TruthGPT. And he said that AI companies should welcome regulation, because with regulation, there's a "better chance of advanced AI being beneficial to humanity."
Top image: Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, walks from lunch during the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 06, 2022 in Sun Valley, Idaho. The world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, and technology will converge at the Sun Valley Resort this week for the exclusive conference. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)