To regulate artificial intelligence, Congress has a lot to learn Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is trying to lead an effort to craft groundbreaking legislation to install safeguards around artificial intelligence. But lawmakers have a lot to learn.

Congress wants to regulate AI, but it has a lot of catching up to do

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Rules for AI are on lawmaker agendas this week. House members talk over dinner tonight with the CEO of OpenAI, which developed the chatbot ChatGPT. And the Senate opens a hearing tomorrow. But NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales tells us Congress has never been especially bold about regulating emerging tech.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: For the past several weeks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has met with dozens of experts in artificial intelligence to craft groundbreaking legislation to install safeguards.

CHUCK SCHUMER: Our goal is to maximize the good that can come of it - and there can be tremendous good - but minimize the bad that can come of it - tremendous bad. But to do it is more easier said than done.

GRISALES: But as Schumer works to build a bipartisan consensus behind his legislative framework, he faces an uphill battle in a bitterly divided Congress.

SCHUMER: It's a very difficult issue, A, because it's moving so quickly and B, because it's so vast and changing so quickly.

GRISALES: Congress has struggled to regulate emerging technology. It missed critical windows to install guardrails for the internet and social media. Now it faces the equivalent of trying to put in brakes for a runaway train.

IFEOMA AJUNWA: AI-automated decision-making technologies are advancing at breakneck speed, and there is this AI race. Yet the regulations are not keeping pace.

GRISALES: That's law professor Ifeoma Ajunwa, who co-founded an AI research program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ajunwa says there are not enough experts in both computer science and law on Capitol Hill, and that makes AI lawmaking all the more challenging.

JOSH HAWLEY: I've got to get educated.

GRISALES: That's Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley. He's figured largely in past partisan fights over a variety of issues, but he's intrigued by Schumer's plans. Hawley is a top Republican on a Senate Judiciary subpanel that will hold a hearing on AI oversight options tomorrow.

HAWLEY: For me, right now, the power of AI to influence elections is a huge concern. So I think we've got to figure out, what is the threat level there? And then what can we reasonably do about it?

GRISALES: Across the Capitol, California Democrat Ted Lieu will co-lead a bipartisan dinner tonight with the head of ChatGPT, the AI chatbot Earlier this year, Lieu introduced a resolution written by ChatGPT - a first for Congress. Yes, you heard that right - proposed federal legislation written by artificial intelligence.

TED LIEU: You have all sorts of harms in the future that we don't even know about. And so I think Congress should step up and start looking at ways to regulate artificial intelligence.

GRISALES: Professor Ajunwa, who recently wrote a book on the influence of tech on the modern workplace, worries about AI's privacy issues.

AJUNWA: The way the internet developed, unfortunately, is the same way that AI's developing. We're not asking, should we? We're not asking, what's the impact on the little guy, on the disadvantaged? We're just asking, is this efficacious? Is this profitable for some people?

GRISALES: Ajunwa says a late start in the U.S. to craft AI laws while countries such as the European Union are years ahead means the best bet for regulation may be quicker executive actions through the White House. Still, Schumer, who's back in his Senate office, remains undeterred.

SCHUMER: Look. It's probably the most important issue facing our country, our families and humanity in the next hundred years.

GRISALES: And if the struggle to regulate the internet and other emerging tech mirrors efforts to put in guardrails for AI, this debate could play out in the U.S. for years to come. Claudia Grisales, NPR News, the Capitol.


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