November 29, 2023

Ina here, fresh from our Axios AI+ Summit in D.C. Today's AI+ is 1,062 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Not-so-easy steps to make AI a force for good

Eric Schmidt at Axios' AI+ Summit yesterday. Photo: Eric Lee/Axios

Speakers at Axios' AI+ Summit in Washington, D.C., yesterday offered a range of prescriptions for tipping AI's looming social impact in a positive direction.

  • Eric Schmidt, Google's former CEO, urged the creation of an international organization of experts — like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — to feed global leaders good AI advice.
  • Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said regulators should use existing and new laws to ensure that the financial fruits of AI are widely distributed rather than concentrated in a few hands.
  • Both Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Alexandra Reeve Givens, CEO and president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, said the priority for legislators should be preventing AI from disrupting elections: "If there's one thing we better get done soon, I think it's that," Klobuchar said.
  • And Tom Graham, CEO of Metaphysic, said U.S. law should recognize individuals' right to own their AI likenesses: We have the right to control our physical bodies and should have a similar interest in our digital representations, he argued.

Getting the ethical dimensions of this new technology right isn't just good in itself, argued AI expert Rumman Chowdhury. It's essential if we expect to get any of AI's benefits — because if people end up distrusting AI, they won't adopt it.

2. Schmidt: Guardrails won't save us

Guardrails that AI companies add to their products to prevent them from causing harm "aren't enough" to control AI capabilities that could endanger humanity within five to 10 years, Schmidt told Axios' Mike Allen at the AI+ Summit.

The big picture: Schmidt compared the development of AI to the introduction of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II.

  • "After Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it took 18 years to get to a treaty over test bans and things like that. We don't have that kind of time today," Schmidt said.
  • The danger, he said, arrives at "the point at which the computer can start to make its own decisions to do things" — when, say, such a system discovers access to weapons, and we can't be certain the system will tell us the truth.
  • Two years ago, that moment was expected to be 20 years off. Today, Schmidt said, some experts think it's only two to four years away.

Of note: Schmidt said he's optimistic that AI will offer wide benefits to vast human populations: "I defy you to argue that an AI doctor or an AI tutor is a negative. It's got to be good for the world."

On the OpenAI boardroom drama: "It's pretty simple. The board fires Sam [Altman]. Sam fires the board." Once the OpenAI staff showed its loyalty to Altman with a mass open letter, Schmidt said, the outcome was inevitable: "How much more feedback do you need from your 360?"

  • "These founder types are unusual, they're incredibly valuable, and they change the world," he said.
  • The moral, per Schmidt: "Don't fire Steve Jobs."

3. Klobuchar: OpenAI turmoil's case for regulation

Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the AI+ Summit.

OpenAI's recent board drama shows that regulators need to set rules of the road on artificial intelligence, Klobuchar told Axios Pro's Ashley Gold at the AI+ Summit.

Why it matters: Few lawmakers have weighed in on what the instability at the maker of the hugely popular ChatGPT means for the responsible and safe development of AI.

  • "I think it shows how fragile all of this is.… There's also a need to have some guardrails, because you never know at what moment who's going to be in charge of what, who's going to be making decisions about this incredibly powerful technology," Klobuchar said.

Zoom in: Klobuchar gave a nod to previous antitrust efforts that she said are "still relevant and maybe even more so" in the age of AI.

Of note: Klobuchar said she is gathering input on a discussion draft bill on intellectual property and people's rights to own their image. She's working on it with Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Thom Tillis and Chris Coons.

Klobuchar reflected on the "ferocious tech debates" around antitrust, during which millions of dollars were lobbied against her bills, saying of AI: "This time there is some legit meeting of the minds."

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will hold two more AI Insight Forums. Today's focuses on intellectual property and transparency. The next will cover defense issues.

4. Chopra: AI shouldn't be a winner-take-all game

CFPB director Rohit Chopra at Axios' Summit. Photo: Eric Lee/Axios

Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said he's concerned that a handful of firms and individuals could wield "enormous control over decisions made throughout the world" with advances in AI.

Driving the news: Chopra spoke with Axios Pro's Ashley Gold at the Summit, highlighting the way the massive aggregation of consumer data will alter the economy and impact Americans.

Chopra shared his worries over AI's "winner take all" dimension, given its ability to "simulate human interaction in a way I don't think we've seen before."

  • "Who really is in control of it? Who gets the gains from it? With lots of aggregations from data, much of the gains are not broadly distributed and they go to a handful of people," he said.

AI's advent elevates concerns over fraud, crime and abuse, particularly in functions of financial services like customer service and lending, Chopra said.

  • But he noted that there are "long-standing laws on the books" that can address harms deepened by AI.

What's next: Looking ahead, Chopra threw some cold water on the idea that there should be a new agency to regulate AI.

  • "If you're gonna do that, you have to keep the existing ones too," he said, adding that "the challenge of regulating data is you're regulating everything."
  • It's difficult to consolidate everything that AI will touch, including national security and mergers and acquisitions, into one agency, he said.

5. Training data

  • Amazon previewed a tool called Guardrails, designed to help companies implement safeguards for LLMs. (TechCrunch)
  • On tap: Today's Senate AI Summit, which runs from 2–5pm ET, will focus on copyright and other intellectual property issues. (Axios Pro)
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee, meanwhile, is holding a hearing on how AI is changing health care.

6. + This

For our AI+ Summit we managed to turn Mike Allen into a juice-dispensing robot.

Thanks to Megan Morrone and Scott Rosenberg for editing this newsletter.