ChatGPT boss tells US legislators regulation ‘critical’ for AI

Sam Altman speaking at the Senate hearing. He is sitting at a wooden desk with his name in front. There are others seated behind him.

Sam Altman, the chief executive of ChatGPT’s OpenAI, has told legislators in the United States that government regulation of artificial intelligence is “critical” because of the potential risks it poses to humanity.

Altman used his appearance on Tuesday in front of a US Senate judiciary subcommittee to urge Congress to impose new rules on big tech, despite deep political divisions that for years have blocked legislation aimed at regulating the internet.

“If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong,” Altman, who has become the global face of AI, told the hearing.

“OpenAI was founded on the belief that artificial intelligence has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives, but also that it creates serious risks,”  he said, but given concerns about disinformation, job security and other dangers, “we think that regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models”.

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

Altman’s San Francisco-based startup rocketed to public attention after it released ChatGPT, a free chatbot tool that answers questions with convincingly human-like responses, late last year.

But initial worries about how students might be able to use ChatGPT to cheat on assignments have expanded to broader concerns about the ability of the latest crop of “generative AI” tools to mislead people, spread falsehoods, violate copyright protections and disrupt some jobs.

The legislators stressed their deepest fears of AI’s developments, with a leading senator opening the hearing on Capitol Hill with a computer-generated voice, which sounded remarkably similar to his own, and reading a text written by the bot.

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