Sept. 13 (UPI) — The top names in tech, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, warned senators in a first-ever closed-door summit on artificial intelligence about the evolving technology’s “civilizational risk,” as they called for AI regulation.
“The consequences of AI going wrong are severe so we have to be proactive rather than reactive,” Musk told reporters in Washington, D.C., as he got into a Tesla after the meeting.
“The question is really one of civilizational risk. It’s not like … one group of humans versus another. It’s like, hey, this is something that’s potentially risky for all humans everywhere,” the chief executive officer of Tesla, Space X and social media platform X added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hosted the private AI Insight Forum in the grand Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as lawmakers sought advice from 22 AI tech giants, human rights and labor leaders about how government should regulate the new technology.
In addition to Musk, Meta CEO Zuckerberg and Microsoft co-founder Gates, ChatGPT-maker OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Google CEO Sundar Pichahi attended, as well as leaders from human rights, labor and entertainment groups.
According to Schumer, every leader in the meeting raised their hand when asked if government should regulate AI.
“We got some consensus on some things … I asked everyone in the room, does government need to play a role in regulating AI and every single person raised their hand, even though they had diverse views,” Schumer told reporters. “So that gives us a message here that we have to try to act, as difficult as the process might be.”
“I agree that Congress should engage with AI to support innovation and safeguards,” Zuckerberg said in prepared remarks. “This is an emerging technology, there are important equities to balance here, and the government is ultimately responsible for that.”
“I think people all agreed that this is something that we need the government’s leadership on,” Altman told reporters during a break. “Some disagreement about how it should happen, but unanimity this is important and urgent.”
While Wednesday’s meeting was open to all 100 senators, about two dozen lawmakers — mostly Democrat — attended. The forum was blasted by some members of both parties who questioned why it was closed to the public and the news media.
“They’re sitting at a big round table all by themselves. All of the senators are to sit there and ask no questions,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said.
“The people of Massachusetts did not send me here not to ask questions,” Warren added. “There’s no interaction, no bumping each against each other on any of these issues.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who is drafting bi-partisan AI legislation, did not attend the closed-door meeting.
“I don’t know why we would invite all the biggest monopolists in the world to come and give Congress tips on how to help them make more money and then close it to the public,” Hawley said. “That’s a terrible idea.”
Three public hearings on AI have previously been held in Washington, D.C.
In June, Sens. Ed Markey and Gary Peters urged the U.S. Government Accountability Office in a letter to assess the potential harms of AI and how to mitigate them. The letter argued that generative AI’s ability to mimic voice, music, text and product design could exploit communities and harm society, if unchecked.
Hundreds of AI researchers and tech executives have signed a number of statements and letters over the past year warning about the potential dangers of AI and calling for better regulation.
“Tackling AI is a unique, once-in-a-kind undertaking,” Schumer said Wednesday. “Because today, we begin an enormous and complex and vital undertaking: building a foundation for bipartisan AI policy that Congress can pass.”
As Musk left the meeting, he was asked by reporters if AI will destroy mankind.
“There is some chance that is above zero that AI will kill us all. I think it’s low. But if there’s some chance, I think we should also consider the fragility of human civilization.”