Top Senate Dem: Congress 'must move quickly' on artificial intelligence legislation

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill after returning from a debt ceiling meeting at the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Congress “must move quickly” to regulate artificial intelligence and has convened a bipartisan group of senators to work on legislation.

Schumer says the group met on Wednesday and that his staff has already met with close to 100 CEOs, scientists and academics who deal with the technology.

“We can’t move so fast that we do flawed legislation, but there’s no time for waste or delay or sitting back,” Schumer said in opening remarks on the Senate floor Thursday. “We’ve got to move fast.”

The unusual legislative push from the Senate majority leader comes as potentially groundbreaking products like AI chatbot ChatGPT have entered the marketplace and can in many ways mimic human behavior. Those tools have generated broader concerns that they will mislead people, spread falsehoods, violate copyright protections and upend some jobs.

Last week, the head of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company that makes ChatGPT, told a Senate panel that government intervention will be critical to mitigating the risks of increasingly powerful AI systems.

“As this technology advances, we understand that people are anxious about how it could change the way we live. We are too,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Altman proposed the formation of a U.S. or global agency that would license the most powerful AI systems and have the authority to “take that license away and ensure compliance with safety standards.”

Schumer said Congress needs to move fast because the technology is advancing so quickly. He has also expressed concerns about China’s own efforts to regulate artificial intelligence, calling that “a wake-up call to the nation."

In April, Schumer proposed a framework for legislation that would require companies to allow independent experts to review and test technologies before they are released publicly, and give users access to those results.

On Thursday, Schumer said the group of senators — including Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Republican Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana — decided that any approach must be bipartisan.

“If harnessed responsibly, AI has the power to do tremendous things for the public good,” Schumer said. “It can unlock unimaginable marvels in medicine, business, national security, science and so many other areas of life. But if left unchecked, AI has the power to do tremendous, tremendous harm.”