Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is launching a new “all-hands-on-deck” effort Wednesday to regulate artificial intelligence, aiming to strike a balance between economic competitiveness and safety.
Schumer laid out his vision in a speech at a Washington think tank on Wednesday, calling on his Senate colleagues to create new rules regulating the emerging AI industry. The plan, the SAFE (Security, Accountability, Foundations, Explain) Innovation Framework, doesn’t provide specific policy requests or define the boundaries of “AI.” Instead, it asks lawmakers to work together to address a variety of AI’s potential risks, from national security and job loss to misinformation, bias, and copyright.
“AI could be our most spectacular innovation yet, a force that could ignite a new era of technological advancement, scientific discovery, and industrial might,” Schumer said in his prepared remarks viewed by The Verge. “The first issue we must tackle is encouraging, not stifling, innovation. But if people don’t think innovation can be done safely, that will stifle AI’s development and even prevent us from moving forward.”
Congress has struggled to regulate the tech industry, failing to pass long-debated legislation on data privacy and competition. But AI is different, according to Schumer, and presents new threats that lawmakers should address with urgency. To help quicken Congress’ pace on AI rules, Schumer said he would convene a series of “AI Insight Forums” later this year. These panels are intended to bring experts and lawmakers together to help form regulations.
“We want the experts, in each subject where we have questions and problems, to sit around the table, debate the major challenges, and forge consensus about the way to go,” Schumer said. “Opposing views will be welcome, even encouraged, because this issue is so new that we must put all ideas on the table.”
Currently, it’s unclear who Schumer plans to bring in for these meetings. Lawmakers already hauled in ChatGPT CEO Sam Altman in May for a hearing focused on learning more about the industry and its potential for harm. It was a far friendlier event when compared to past tech hearings, as Altman agreed with many of the same reforms the senators proposed. Still, this chummy rapport has spooked some experts who fear regulatory capture in the US as OpenAI lobbies for weaker rules in the EU.
Schumer’s plan falls in line with the White House’s public statements on AI. After meeting with CEOs from ChatGPT, Google, and Microsoft last month, Vice President Kamala Harris said these companies have an “ethical, moral, and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products.” President Joe Biden met with AI experts Tuesday in San Francisco to discuss AI’s “enormous promise and risk.”
“We’ll see more technological change in the next ten years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years and maybe even beyond that. And AI is already driving that change in every part of American life often in ways we don’t notice,” Biden said Tuesday. “Social media has already shown us the harm of powerful — that powerful — powerful technology can do without the right safeguards in place.”
Still, issues like privacy and liability have divided lawmakers trying to regulate other forms of tech in recent years. Earlier this month, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) put out a new bill making clear that Section 230, which prevents platforms from being sued for user-generated content, wouldn’t apply to AI-generated content.
Other bills, like Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) ASSESS AI Act, would require federal agencies to review their AI policies and make recommendations to Congress for future legislation. In the House, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Ken Buck (R-CO) put out a new bill Tuesday that would create a new federal commission in charge of recommending and establishing new rules.