Elon Musk discusses artificial intelligence with Sen. Schumer

Twitter owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday said he discussed artificial intelligence in a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, as Washington policymakers increasingly debate regulations of the quickly emerging technology.

Musk told reporters he and Schumer discussed “the future” in at least his second visit to Capitol Hill this year. Musk’s visit comes as Schumer has been discussing and circulating a framework that outlines a new regulatory regime for artificial intelligence, as the recent release of chatbot ChatGPT and similar tools stoke new fears in Washington about the ways AI could harm children’s safety, amplify misinformation and disrupt elections.

Elon Musk goes to Capitol Hill following Twitter purchase

Musk has been among the tech policy leaders sounding the alarm about the risks of AI. When Schumer tweeted that he was launching a “first-of-its-kind” effort on AI earlier this month, Musk called his announcement “good news.”

“AI regulation will be far more important than it may seem today,” Musk tweeted.

After half a decade of efforts in Congress to rein in the abuses of social media companies, Washington policymakers are increasingly turning their gaze to regulating artificial intelligence. Tech executives and critics alike have been swarming policymakers in recent weeks, seeking to influence the increasing political debate.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he had a “very good meeting” with Musk, where discussions ranged from Tesla’s plant in Buffalo and AI. Schumer said he previously met with the tech billionaire about a decade ago during a visit to his company SpaceX.

Schumer has not yet publicly unveiled AI legislation, but he said his approach to AI regulation would “deliver transparent, responsible AI while not stifling critical and cutting edge innovation” in a news release earlier this month.

“The Age of AI is here, and here to stay,” Schumer said in the news release.

Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schumer’s regulatory proposal would require companies to review and test AI technologies before the are publicly released or updated, and it would require the businesses to give users access to those results. Such a requirement is likely to face resistance from tech companies, which very frequently ship new algorithms and update them.

Few other specifics have been released about the framework Schumer is developing, which he has discussed with AI-focused think tanks, research institutions and industry experts. The proposal has four guardrails “Who, Where, How, and Protect,” which Schumer says will help the government access the data it needs to properly regulate AI and reduce potential harms.

Schumer first teased the proposal following the Chinese government’s announcement about its own approach to regulating AI, saying in the news release that “urgent action” is needed for the United States to stay ahead of China.

Musk has long warned about perceived dangers of artificial intelligence, at one point calling it the greatest threat to civilization. Even as he highlights its potential dangers, Musk is entering the AI space himself — staking his ambitions in a company called X.AI, which he founded in Nevada last month.

Washington vows to tackle AI

Musk said in a recent interview with Fox News that he aims to build a product, called “TruthGPT” that would serve as a counterweight to Microsoft and Google’s early dominance in the field.

“I think I will create a third option, although starting very late in the game of course,” Musk said in the interview. “It’s definitely starting late. But I will try to create a third option and that third option hopefully does more good than harm.”

That revelation came after he separately acknowledged amassing high-powered computer equipment to pursue generative AI, the field behind chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. Musk joined a group of business leaders and academics in signing onto a letter last month calling for a pause in AI development.

Musk’s visit with the top Democrat in Congress follows months of tensions with Schumer’s party, after his first six months at the helm of Twitter have cemented his reputation as a political lightning rod. Members of Schumer’s caucus have frequently criticized Musk’s efforts to unwind the Twitter’s prior leadership’s investments in content moderation and safety. During his last visit to Capitol Hill in January, Musk mostly met with Republican leaders, who have largely celebrated his leadership of the social network.

Musk in the past has brushed off concerns from members of Schumer’s caucus, at times openly and obscenely mocking them via Twitter.

In 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called out Musk for asking his followers in a Twitter poll whether he should sell off 10 percent of his Tesla stock in a bid to skirt some tax obligations.

“Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll,” said Wyden, who has pushed to raise taxes on billionaires.

Musk replied with a crude tweet regarding Wyden’s appearance.

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