In a never-happened-before conversation, the future of AI was at the heart of a three-hour Senate discourse held at the US Capitol in Washington inviting top tech CEOs, civil society leaders, and more than 60 senators. The first of the nine planned sessions centering upon AI regulations and the risks of AI, was organized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The objective behind these hearings is to develop a consensus as the Senate gears up to draft legislation to regulate AI, which has swiftly been adopted across a multitude of industries. 

The top tech CEOs present at the discussion were CEOs of Meta, Google, Microsoft IBM, Nvidia, and OpenAI – Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jensen Huang, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, and more.

future of AI

Elon Musk greeting the AI Insight Forum devised by the Senate. (Image Courtesy – X @Kristennetten)

A lot of difficult questions were asked and several oblique spectrums of the future AI regulations came to light, most of which will need pondering upon by the Congress. On being asked if the federal government should step up its game to oversee AI, nearly all the attendees raised their hands unanimously pointing to a ‘yes’ but the consensus was elusive on what would be the specifics of the role that the legislation should play. 

What Did The Senate Discussion Entail For The Future Of AI?

Representatives from labor unions paired with the world’s top tech CEOs vying to win a sizable slice of the AI market pie chaperoned a broad range of perspectives about what the future AI regulations should be inclusive of. 

Most of the top tech CEOs trickled into the Senate hearing shortly before 10 AM, during what’s likely the first time that one could muster a palpable tension in the room as Mark Zuckerberg was seated far across the opposite end of the room from Elon Musk. This has been the first time since the two have shared a room since the very challenge of a cage fight

Civil rights leaders underscored the need for a voice to be granted to the least powerful ones in society by way of an inclusive legislative process. Labor unions cited the issues of job displacement, which have raged on to incite chaos ever since a certain OpenAI generative AI model went ‘viral’. 

Many civil society groups also highlighted the risks of AI such as the inadvertent discrimination against minorities and how copyrighted works of artists and writers were being ingested with neither appropriate compensation nor permission. 

Top tech CEO Elon Musk believes that the Senate meeting for AI regulations will go down in history as being pivotal for future civilizations. 

“There’s a chance – above zero – that AI will kill us all. It’s low, but there’s some chance. The consequences of getting AI wrong are severe.”

– Elon Musk

Many other specks of agreement mirrored the priorities of the tech industry, including the promotion of skilled immigration and education and increasing federal investment in R&D. 

Ex-Microsoft leader Bill Gates illuminated AI’s potential to feed the hungry, whereas another attendee implored to be spending tens of billions to unlock AI’s benefits. Yet, Congress is mired in mitigating the societal risks of AI without regulations – civilizational risks, tech-based discrimination, and potential for threats to national security. 

Sen. Maria Cantwell lauded Satya Nadella from Microsoft on his take on how most agreed that AI could not be left unattended to its own devices. 

“When it comes to AI, we should not be thinking about autopilot. We need to have copilots.” 

But who would be keeping an eye on AI?

The Lawmaker’s Conundrum On Future AI Regulations

Some of the harder questions were met with deafening silence. There was a dearth of engagement lingering behind whether a new standalone federal agency was required to regulate AI. 

Many policymakers’ crescive awareness of how artificial intelligence, specifically the likes of ChatGPT, has highlighted the disruptive nature of such tools. Commercial productivity, threats to national security, intellectual property, and jobs – all have been victimized as prey to generative AI.

This was also an incipient session for the tech industry to influence lawmakers on designing rules for the regulation of AI. Companies including IBM, Google, OpenAI, and Microsoft stepped up their game by offering in-depth proposals fluffed upon white papers, describing the layers of transparency, testing, and oversight of AI.

Contrary to the social media industry that desisted regulation, senators were welcomed with AI executives such as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman publicly calling for the future of AI to be railroaded with regulations. 

Wednesday’s Senate hearing was pivotal to lawmakers’ education before pressing down carefully on the policy proposals. Yet, hammering down on the scope of AI regulations is the trickiest goal for the Senate committee. 

“AI is unlike anything that the Congress has dealt with before. Most experts aren’t even sure which questions lawmakers should be asking.”

The US lawmakers are much behind the European Union, which has planned to finalize an AI law by the end of the year, encompassing what AI could be banned for and other restrictions for future AI regulations. 

In a backlash full of contempt, a bipartisan committee of US senators slammed the meeting as a ‘forum not designed to produce legislation’. One member called the session a giant cocktail party, sitting at a big, round table for the tech industry questioning the authority of the top tech CEOs in legislative matters. 

“Why would we invite all the biggest monopolists in the world to give Congress tips on how to help them make more money and close it to the public.”

Schumer emphasized that the meeting was held confidential to provide lawmakers with an ‘unvarnished’ perspective of the outsiders.