Monday, 4 March 2024

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testifies in ‘historic’ Senate hearing on AI safety

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testifies in ‘historic’ Senate hearing on AI safety

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and co-founder of Worldcoin, recently testified before Congress alongside IBM’s chief of trust, Christina Montgomery, and NYU professor Gary Marcus. 

The Senate judiciary subcommittee session represented Altman’s first official appearance before Congress, giving senators the opportunity to question the OpenAI CEO concerning his company’s views on regulation.

Dubbed a “historic” session by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the proceedings focused on understanding the potential threats posed by generative AI models such as ChatGPT and how lawmakers should approach regulation.

Altman’s comments — which were described by congressional members and fellow speaker Gary Marcus as seeming sincere and genuine — appeared to take several senate members by surprise.

He advocated for the establishment of a federal oversight agency with the authority to issue and revoke development liscenses, stated that he believed creators should be compensated when their work is used to train an AI system, and agreed that consumers who suffer harm using AI products should be entitled to sue the developer.

Altman shrugged off questions related to the recent “AI pause” letter calling for a six-month moratorium on the deployment of systems more powerful than GPT-4, the AI system underpinning ChatGPT, by stating that OpenAI had spent longer than six months evaluating GPT-4 before deploymeny. He said the company had no plans to deploy another model within the next six months.

Gary Marcus, a signatory of the pause letter, admitted he agreed more to the spirit of the letter than its contents, but urged Congress to consider global oversight as well as federal regulation — a sentiment Altman agreed with.

Throughout the hearing, the three guest speakers aligned on most topics. This included support for privacy protections, greater government oversight, third-party auditing, and how soon the U.S. government should seek to regulate the industry (immediately).

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