Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Bill Gates meet for AI regulation talks with senators in DC

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Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Bill Gates meet for AI regulation talks with senators in DC

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Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Bill Gates meet for AI regulation talks with senators in DC TODAY
Sen. Majority Leader Schumer, who organized today's AI forum, will moderate
Schumer called risks posed by AI an 'all-hands-on-deck moment for Congress'
Musk raised concern over big 'deep learning' AI data centers visible from space


PUBLISHED: 15:53 BST, 13 September 2023

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg were in the same room for the first time together after a summer that saw them trade barbs on social media and agree to a mixed martial arts (MMA) 'cage match'.

The billionaires were among nearly two dozen of America's biggest tech tycoons - with a combined net worth of over $380 billion - who were grilled about the future of artificial intelligence at a behind-closed-doors hearing in front of the US Senate.

Longtime AI critic Musk was in a playful mood, joking with reporters and speaking off the cuff despite the release of a bombshell biography earlier this week that focused on the Tesla CEO's erratic behavior.

The private meeting was a crash course for legislators on how best to regulate AI: a technical achievement which some of these same industry leaders likened to the 'extinction'-level risk of nuclear weapons in a joint 'open letter' to Congress.

Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who spearheaded the effort for today's 'AI Insight Forum,' described the all-day debate on the legal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence as an 'all-hands-on-deck moment for Congress.'

The forum was the first time that feuding industry titans Elon Musk and Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg were in a room together since a summer of online gamesmanship on a proposed MMA 'cage match' between the two billionaires.

Early photos from today's forum showed the two combative executives segregated across the dais of the Senate office building's Kennedy Caucus Room.

Their cage match, which at one point was pitched as a charity bout to be held at the Colosseum in Rome, appears to be postponed indefinitely, an official with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) said last week.

When asked what his 'mission' was with lawmakers today, Musk made a heart symbol with his hands.

Early news reports have mentioned only one major executive present at the Senate forum to represent the human laborers whose livelihoods have been put at risk by the rising use of AI: Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO federation of unions.

'For Congress to legislate on artificial intelligence,' Senator Schumer said Tuesday, 'is for us to engage in one of the most complex and important subjects Congress has ever faced.'

Senator Schumer moderated the forum on how Congress should set artificial intelligence safeguards, which ran from 10AM to 5PM Wednesday.

Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota helped moderate the forum.

Schumer, who discussed AI issues with Musk this past April, expressed his hope that forum attendees would speak on 'why Congress must act, what questions to ask, and how to build a consensus for safe innovation.'

As news trickled out of the private meeting, Bloomberg News reported that Musk called AI a double-edged sword, both a source for good and an existential risk to civilization. But he saved his most dire concerns for 'Deep AI.'

Deep AI, or deep learning, is a subfield of machine learning AI that uses neural network hardware to better instruct a computer in the art of processing data in nonlinear or parallel channels that imitate the human brain.

To better convey the scope of the risks posed by a hypothetical runaway Deep AI, Musk pointed to the current existence of vast and powerful data centers so large that they are currently visible from space.

According to Bloomberg's source, Musk said that these Deep AI systems have a level of intelligence today that's hard for the average person to comprehend.

But Musk, despite being the world's richest man, was not the only tech expert who spoke to the Senate Wednesday.

Other tech industry attendees include feature Palantir CEO Alexander Karp, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, and the CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet Sundar Pichai.

Microsoft President Brad Smith told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday that Congress should 'require safety brakes for AI that controls or manages critical infrastructure.'

Smith compared AI safeguards to requiring circuit breakers in buildings, school buses having emergency brakes and airplanes having collision avoidance systems.

Some of the firms whose executives who took part in Wednesday's meeting have already followed White House advice on making voluntary commitments to help curb AI's potential to influence politics via easily made and spread disinformation.

Adobe, IBM, Nvidia and five other companies said Tuesday that they have signed President Joe Biden's voluntary AI commitments, which require steps such as watermarking AI-generated content.

The commitments announced in July were aimed at ensuring AI's power was not used for destructive purposes. Google, Microsoft and the makers of ChatGPT OpenAI signed on in July.

The White House, reportedly, has also been working on an executive order covering AI technology.

But the majority Democratic Party senate caucus, which Schumer leads, was not in unanimous agreement on the beneficial intent of the Senate's private AI forum.

These tech billionaires want to lobby Congress behind closed doors with no questions asked. That's just plain wrong,' Senator Elizabeth Warren, a vice chair of the Democratic conference, told NBC News in an interview.

'They want to shape regulation so that the current tech billionaires are the ones who continue to dominate and make money,' Senator Warren said. 'They should not have a forum to do that, especially a closed-door forum.'

The majority leader also faced similar criticisms from minority Republican senators.

Senator Josh Hawley - a Missouri Republican who has worked with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal on proposing a bipartisan plan to regulate AI - called the closed nature of Schumer's AI Insight Forum 'ridiculous.'

'I think it's ridiculous that all these monopolists are all here to tell senators how to shape the regulatory framework so they can make the maximum amount of money,' Senator Hawley said.

'They ought to be answering questions about what they're doing with people's private data,' the Missouri lawmaker said.
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