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ChatGPT's OpenAI on a smartphone. Iryna Imago via Shutterstock
Artificial Intelligence

CEO of ChatGPT founder tells US senators that AI regulation is 'critical' to prevent risks

Sam Altman warns that AI could have nefarious effects on society.

LAST UPDATE | 16 May 2023

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of ChatGPT’s OpenAI, told US politicians that regulating artificial intelligence was essential, after his chatbot stunned the world.

The latest figure to erupt from Silicon Valley, Sam Altman testified before a US Senate panel and urged Congress to impose new rules on big tech, despite deep political divisions that for years have blocked legislation aimed at regulating the internet.

But governments worldwide are under pressure to move quickly after the release of ChatGPT, a bot that can churn out human-like content in an instant, went viral and both wowed and spooked users.

An Oireachtas committee has been told there is an “arms race” with artificial intelligence technologies that continue to move beyond our capability to detect them.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence was holding a session on disinformation and hybrid threats in the context of geopolitical shifts.

In submissions, the committee was told that hybrid attacks and campaigns could be understood as co-ordinated actions across different domains.

For example, cyber attacks that included information manipulation with a view to influencing electoral outcomes.

Different types of tools and organised actions such as disinformation, economic pressure, abuse of migrants, cyber attacks and other covert actions were understood as being combined in hybrid threats.

It was told these threats were growing both in frequency and impact.

Dr Eileen Culloty, deputy director of the Dublin City University (DCU) Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society, told the committee: “We are very much in an arms race with these technologies.” 

She said the study had been hampered by a lack of access to data from online platforms, which had left researchers unable to determine “the true scale and impact” of online disinformation.

She added that there was a greater burden placed on public funding and civil society when online platforms could be providing a “much better picture”.

United States

OpenAI CEO Altman told a Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing today that his tool 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 insisted that generative AI developed by OpenAI will one day “address some of humanity’s biggest challenges, like climate change and curing cancer”.

However, given the risk of disinformation, job losses and other problems, “we think that regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models,” he said.

Altman suggested the US government might consider a combination of licensing and testing requirements before the release of powerful AI models.

He also recommended labeling and increased global coordination in setting up rules over the technology.

“I think the US should lead here and do things first, but to be effective we do need something global,” he added.

Subcommittee chairman Senator Richard Blumenthal opened the session by playing a recording of a convincing AI version of himself reading out remarks crafted by ChatGPT.

Artificial intelligence technologies “are more than just research experiments”.

“They are no longer fantasies of science fiction, they are real and present,” Blumenthal said.

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