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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

Shoeleather Journalism
in the Digital Age

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson discuss AI’s risk

photo of Sam Altman
Sam Altman leaves a meeting with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., Jan. 11, 2024. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Sam Altman, others give insights into technological disruption

By Kanishka Singh | REUTERS

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman met Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson on Capitol Hill on Thursday and the two discussed the risks of artificial intelligence, the lawmaker’s office and the ChatGPT maker’s boss said.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT:

The administration of Democratic U.S. President Joe Biden has been pressing lawmakers for AI regulation, but a polarized U.S. Congress, where Republicans control the House and Democrats have a Senate majority, has made little headway in passing effective regulation.

The rise of AI has fed a host of concerns, including the fear that it could be used to disrupt the democratic process, turbocharge fraud or lead to job loss, among other harms. Europe is ahead of the U.S. on regulations around AI, with lawmakers there drafting AI rules.

KEY QUOTES:

The two met on Thursday “to discuss the promise and risks of AI and other technologies. The Speaker believes that Congress should encourage innovation, help maintain our competitive edge, and stay mindful of potential risks,” Johnson’s office said in a statement.

Altman told reporters they discussed “trying to balance this sort of tremendous upside and figure out how to mitigate the risk” of AI, adding he was “excited to see what the legislative process will do.”
Context

Microsoft-backed OpenAI was founded as an open-source nonprofit, before co-founder Altman pivoted to a capped-profit structure in 2019.

In November, Altman said Microsoft would take a non-voting, observer position on the company’s board.

OpenAI ousted Altman on Nov. 17 without any detailed cause, setting off alarm bells among investors and employees. He was reinstated days later with the promise of a new board.

In October, Biden signed an executive order requiring developers of AI systems that pose risks to U.S. national security, economy and public safety to share results of safety tests with the federal government. The order goes beyond voluntary commitments AI companies had made this year.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio

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