September 13, 2023

‘What’s the threshold at which you begin to regulate something?’: AI Insight Forums begin

A Screenshot of Sen. Martin Heinrich speaking about AI during a Washington Post Live event September 12, 2023.

A Screenshot of Sen. Martin Heinrich speaking about AI during a Washington Post Live event September 12, 2023.

Congress set up a series of talks to discuss artificial intelligence, something that state and federal legislative branches have had an increasing interest in discussing.

The first AI Insight Forum begins Wednesday in the U.S. Senate. These forums are closed door which means neither the public nor the media can attend. A readout of the forum will be made available after the event is concluded.

U.S.  Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, discussed AI Tuesday on the Washington Post Live’s Across the Aisle with Leigh Ann Caldwell.

Heinrich discussed AI with South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds on the show. Both serve as co-chairs of the Artificial Intelligence Caucus.

“I think we all recognize that in this kind of a divided Congress, if we’re going to legislate effectively on AI, it really has to be a bipartisan team effort and so it’s an effort to make sure that our colleagues are getting information directly from some of these leaders,” Heinrich said. “And it’s just one more example of that there are going to be many more down the road and we want to make sure that all of the folks who have a seat at the table. who have a stake in this. are heard by our colleagues and that we have the best possible information to be able to legislate in this space.”

Rounds, who will moderate the afternoon AI Insight Forum session, added that these are informational forums.

“But it’s really a matter of trying to get out as much information for everybody as we possibly can,” Rounds said. “We’ve got folks that are really into the AI, the machine learning and so forth, but to try to get the information that they have in a productive manner to as many members of Congress and their members of the Senate and their staffs as we possibly the Senate really is staff driven and it’s up it’s a matter of trying to get as many members as possible and to keep their interest during this time period.”

Since the twin entertainment strikes from the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA continue, Caldwell asked the senators if this forum could offer solutions to the strikes. The use of AI in entertainment is one sticking point in the strikes.

“Well, what I would say is, that is something that needs to be resolved and resolved soon, because I will tell you, I have a lot of constituents who are not working right now because of these impacts,” Heinrich said. “And, you know, technology marches on, but we also have to be incredibly grateful and respectful of the work that goes into that industry.”

Since AI has become an important part of the technological landscape, the question of regulation was brought up.

“One of the questions that I’m asking myself is, where do we think, what’s the threshold at which you begin to regulate something?” Heinrich said. “There are going to be applications for AI that are very low risk, and we don’t want to stifle innovation, but they’re also going to be applications that have very real world consequences and so if you’re going to have a platform that is going to drive a car or be in charge of a physical system, we need to understand the risks involved there and we need to be able to test those products and know with a great deal of certainty how they’re going to behave.”

Rounds responded that AI should not be regulated from a place of not having good information, he also wants regulation to be less hard and more soft.

“(AI has) been used within military applications for years. It’s been used in financial service applications for years and, you know, it’s something that is out there, Rounds said. “I think we can handle it. But I think probably one of the most important things that we do here is if we can keep this on a bipartisan basis… I think there’s a path forward,” Rounds said. “If it becomes partisan to where we’re just at each other’s throats, then we won’t fix it. At the same time, I think a light stand on regulatory activities is probably better than a heavy game.”

Rounds would also like to see AI’s continued development in the US.

“I want us to be seen as not only the birthplace for it, but we want to see as much new development coming into our country as we possibly can still provide for that privacy protection for individuals that it’s not going to be but we need to try,” Rounds said.

The forum guests include 22 people including Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Elon Musk of X, formerly known as Twitter, Sam Altman of OpenAI, Bill Gates formerly of Microsoft and others.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, issued a statement to NM Political Report about the AI Insight Forums.

Luján serves as Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband Chairman.

“Artificial intelligence systems are rapidly evolving, and it’s critical that Congress fully understands this issue to craft forward-looking solutions. Rapid innovation and associated risks have spurred interest from many senators and committees. This important forum to hear from AI experts will help Congress develop policy to promote innovation and protect the American people,” Luján said in the statement. “I’m hopeful that this forum will build on my work to implement responsible guardrails for AI and my legislation to ensure language equity for non-English users online. As Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, I’ll continue to use my position to ensure New Mexicans can use this emerging technology safely and responsibly.”