Lawmakers research AI to help better legislate tech

Some congressmembers are split on how to regulate the tech.

March 17, 2023, 6:04 AM

With the rise of artificial intelligence in our daily lives, members of Congress are trying to get ahead of the curve and ensure the technology doesn't get out of control.

And they're taking different approaches to find the best solution.

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is taking graduate level courses on AI for his machine learning master's degree at George Mason University. The 72-year-old lawmaker told ABC News that he doesn't know enough about the technology but needs to stay on top of it to properly legislate it.

"I'm never going to be a scientist, but I'm helping make policy on some really important things," he said.

PHOTO: A robot dog walks through the halls of George Mason University.
A robot dog walks through the halls of George Mason University.
ABC News Live

The congressman said his wife recently used the AI in the Bing search engine using his name, and the results came back with falsehoods.

"So how do we regulate that? And especially because we, more than any other country in the world, have this deep, deep-seated commitment to free speech," he said.

The new Bing is currently in public preview, a Microsoft spokesperson told ABC News.

“We’ve received a lot of helpful user feedback and have quickly responded with updates to address issues and continue to improve the experience,” the spokesperson said.

Beyer warned though that there are concerns about AI, such as impersonations, cheating and other fraud, but it is still too early to regulate it.

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-V.a.) is taking graduate classes to learn more about new technology.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-V.a.) is taking graduate classes to learn more about new technology.
ABC News Live

"It's really hard to say, 'Hey, here's what I think we should do because it's so new.' We don't know the upsides or the downsides," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), an MIT graduate, however, argued that now is the time for Congress to act. In January, Auchincloss showed off how powerful AI can be by reading the first speech on the House floor that was entirely written by ChatGPT.

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass) speaks with ABC News about AI.
U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass) speaks with ABC News about AI.
ABC News Live

He warned that tech companies won't be writing the rules of AI.

"This can't be social media to 2.0 where policymakers for 15 years, allowed companies to get big, to get rich and to not sufficiently interrogate the effects on society, on politics, on the media, that their technology was having. We have got to be ahead of this wave of innovation not behind," he told ABC News.

U.S. Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Calif), a former video game designer who has a master's degree in AI, told ABC News that he's constantly had to educate his colleagues on the tech.

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Jay Obernolte (D-Calif.) has been researching AI for years.
U.S. Rep. Jay Obernolte (D-Calif.) has been researching AI for years.
ABC News Live

He said while the concerns that AI will take away jobs and disrupt lives are legitimate, the technology has had many benefits in advancing medicine, computer technology and other areas.

"What we can't do is throw the baby out with the bathwater and regulate without understanding what we're doing," Obernolte told ABC News. "Because if we do that, we're going to stifle the development of something that can be incredibly beneficial."

PHOTO: Congress members said they have concerns about AI chatbots.
Congress members said they have concerns about AI chatbots.
ABC News Live

Still, the elected officials said they will be keeping an eye on any developments.

"There is a meaningful thing there. But I have real trouble imagining what legislation would protect us from that creative destruction. It's like, almost going back to the atomic bomb. You can't uninvent it," Beyer said.

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