What Big Tech Said in Closed-Door Senate Forum on AI

U.S. Senate

It was a big week for artificial intelligence (AI) in Washington.

This, as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hosted a closed-door knowledge sharing forum Wednesday (Sept. 13) for over five dozen U.S. senators that featured 22 witnesses drawn from academia, advocacy and the tech sector, together representing more than half a trillion dollars’ worth of wealth.

While the advocacy and academic witnesses didn’t add much to the dollar count, their words and insights may have had more heft.

The issue at hand? Regulating AI’s rapidly advancing capabilities.

“It’s such a cosmic issue with such consequences for society that you can’t run away from it,” Schumer said.

For their part, everyone in the room reportedly agreed with him on the need for oversight. “No one backed off in saying we need government involvement,” Schumer told reporters after the session.

After the meeting, Elon Musk said that the meeting “may go down in history as very important to the future of civilization,” while emphasizing that the AI industry needed Washington to serve as a “referee.”

Musk said he believes there is a chance AI could bring about the end of the word.

Still, the controversial entrepreneur told reporters as he left the session that he didn’t believe Congress was ready to regulate AI.

Read more: US Eyes AI Regulations that Tempers Rules and Innovation

The US Is Starting to Shape Its Own Regulatory Approach to AI

The U.S. is best positioned among most of the world’s major market economies to regulate AI in part because the technology has been developed and is being commercialized mostly in America.

“I expect our leadership will create some durable benefit to the US over time. I agree that Congress should engage with AI to support innovation and safeguards. This is an emerging technology, there are important equities to balance here, and the government is ultimately responsible for that,” said Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his prepared testimony for Schumer’s meeting.

“While the conversation is mostly focused on generative AI right now, we shouldn’t lose sight of the broader progress across computer vision, natural language processing, robotics, and more, which will also impact society,” Zuckerberg added.

PYMNTS has previously written about how a healthy, competitive market is one where the doors are open to innovation and development.

“This is a lot of song and dance that covers the fact that actually nothing is advancing,” Josh Hawley (R.-Mo.) said to reporters after Schumer’s session.

Hawley unveiled a one-page framework for regulating AI in advance of a session he co-chaired on Tuesday (Sep. 12) where he slammed Microsoft and NVIDIA executives for being “tech elitists” and said lawmakers had failed with social media and needed to do better with regulating AI.

“Congress outsourced social media to the biggest corporations in the world, which has been a disaster,” Hawley said.

Read also: How AI Regulation Could Shape Three Digital Empires

Addressing Consumer Concerns Around AI

It is not just the government that has reservations around AI, as consumers see not only the technology’s promise but also its risks.

As PYMNTS has written, while consumers generally think that AI can improve their daily lives, there exists an undercurrent of the unknown to their perception of the innovative technology — and that undercurrent is centered around doubts that AI will provide them with the right information 100% of the time. There’s also the uncertainty over whether the information AI platforms provide is safe and reliable, particularly when it comes to sensitive areas like banking and healthcare.

“What is key for most consumers is knowing that [AI] goes well beyond just a large language model [LLM], it goes well beyond what you’re sort of seeing at the surface, and it’s been touching and permeating a lot of parts of your daily lives for years,” Shaunt Sarkissian, founder and CEO of AI-ID, told PYMNTS in a recent interview.

PYMNTS Intelligence finds that 56% of consumers who feel optimistic about the impact of AI on their work-life believe AI will save them time. Nearly half of consumers (46%) who feel at least a little optimistic about the impact of AI on their work-life believe AI will reduce errors, while 35% believe that AI will help them communicate with others more easily.