Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (TSLA), said Washington needs to take aggressive action on artificial intelligence and “perhaps even create a Department of AI.”
According to a video of Musk’s remarks to reporters, he said, “We’ve created regulatory agencies before,” on Wednesday after attending a meeting in Washington with other tech CEOs to discuss AI.
A new government agency similar to the Federal Aviation Administration or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may be established in the upcoming years, according to Musk, who also owns SpaceX and X (formerly known as Twitter). This would be done to ensure that businesses act in the public’s best interests.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in his own remarks during the discussion that “we came out of that room exhilarated.” He said that when he asked the audience, which included representatives from the business, civil rights, defense, labor, and arts sectors, if the government should become involved in regulating AI, “every single person raised their hands.”
“That sends us a message here that we have to try to act, as difficult as the process may be,” he continued.
Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (META), and the CEOs of Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, and IBM were among the other well-known people in attendance. Another participant, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, described it as an “unprecedented moment.”
Elon Musk, CEO of X, the organization formerly known as Twitter, smiles as he addresses the media after attending a private meeting of top tech CEOs to discuss the concerns and opportunities related to artificial intelligence. Jacquelyn Martin/AP PhotoHowever, as Washington tries to understand the new technology, Schumer, Musk, and others emphasized Wednesday that this week’s gathering was only the first step in what may be a protracted process.
The options range from a comprehensive approach that regulates AI as a stand-alone entity—an option Musk alluded to in his remarks—to more piecemeal approaches that place the responsibility for action on existing agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and others to handle various aspects of the sprawling technology.
The debate is likely to rage in the months ahead, with it remaining to be seen what business leaders will actually be receptive to when it gets down to specific details. Musk, as one example, has had an often tense relationship with other federal regulators, especially the SEC.
A department of artificial intelligence, in particular, is a bad idea, according to many experts and business leaders. Mark MacCarthy of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation told Yahoo Finance earlier this week that you can’t regulate AI in a single department. It has far too many uses.
Another conference attendee, OpenAI’s Altman, cautioned lawmakers in May that he was in favor of “regulation that balances incentivizing safety while ensuring that people are able to access the technology’s benefits.” Altman has expressed support for regulation that strikes a balance between incentivizing safety and ensuring that people can access the benefits of the technology.
As a result of the intense public interest in Open AI’s ChatGPT, AI regulation has been a major topic of discussion in Washington in recent months. Schumer’s “AI Insight Forum” is one of three hearings on the subject that legislators are conducting this week alone.
Whatever the case, Schumer’s attempt to start a conversation with Wednesday’s eagerly anticipated event appears to have been successful, as Musk noted in his praise for Schumer and other Senators for organizing the event, adding that “this meeting may go down in history as being important for the future of civilization.”
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