Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, testified before a US Senate committee on Tuesday about the possibilities – and pitfalls – of the new technology.
In a matter of months, several AI models have entered the market.
Mr Altman said a new agency should be formed to license AI companies.
ChatGPT and other similar programmes can create incredibly human-like answers to questions – but can also be wildly inaccurate.
Mr Altman, 38, has become a spokesman of sorts for the burgeoning industry. He has not shied away from addressing the ethical questions that AI raises, and has pushed for more regulation.
He said that AI could be as big as “the printing press” but acknowledged its potential dangers.
“I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong…we want to be vocal about that,” Mr Altman said. “We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.”
He also admitted the impact that AI could have on the economy, including the likelihood that AI technology could replace some jobs, leading to layoffs in certain fields.
“There will be an impact on jobs. We try to be very clear about that,” he said, adding that the government will “need to figure out how we want to mitigate that”.
Mr Altman added, however, that he is “very optimistic about how great the jobs of the future will be.”
However, some senators argued new laws were needed to make it easier for people to sue OpenAI.
Mr Altman told legislators he was worried about the potential impact on democracy, and how AI could be used to send targeted misinformation during elections – a prospect he said is among his “areas of greatest concerns”.
“We’re going to face an election next year,” he said. “And these models are getting better.”
He gave several suggestions for how a new agency in the US could regulate the industry – including “a combination of licensing and testing requirements” for AI companies, which he said could be used to regulate the “development and release of AI models above a threshold of capabilities”.
He also said firms like OpenAI should be independently audited.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley said the technology could be revolutionary, but also compared the new tech to the invention of the “atomic bomb”.
Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal observed that an AI-dominated future “is not necessarily the future that we want”.
“We need to maximize the good over the bad. Congress has a choice now. We had the same choice when we faced social media. We failed to seize that moment,” he warned.
What was clear from the testimony is that there is bi-partisan support for a new body to regulate the industry.
However, the technology is moving so fast that legislators also wondered whether such an agency would be capable of keeping up.