On the Verge of a New Era


“And now for some introductory remarks.”

This is how Senator Richard Blumenthal opened the recent hearing on artificial intelligence – AI – that saw Sam Altman, OpenAI and ChatGPT CEO, testify. Blumenthal paused for a recording to give his opening remarks.

“Too often we have seen what happens when technology outpaces regulation, the unbridled exploitation of personal data, the proliferation of disinformation and the deepening of societal inequalities. We have seen how algorithmic bias can perpetuate discrimination and prejudice and how the lack of transparency can undermine public trust. This is not the future we want.” The recording stopped.

Blumenthal then took the microphone.

“If you were listening from home you might have thought that voice was mine and the words from me. But in fact that voice was not mine and the words were not mine, and the audio was an AI voice cloning software trained on my floor speeches. The remarks were written by ChatGPT when it was asked how I would open this hearing. And you heard, just now, the result.”

ChatGPT had researched, so to speak, Blumenthal’s speeches of the past and created a profile where it would repeat not only his words but also his philosophy.

Blumenthal said although this example was impressive, in a decade when it is looked back upon it will seem similar to when we remember our first cellphones – as big clunky things.

“We recognize we are on the verge of a new era,” he said.

He spoke of all the positives that will come – and have come – from AI including advancements in medicine and cancer treatments and modeling climate and weather – but there will be a downside as well to this technology.

The biggest nightmare looming in this new “industrial revolution” is the displacement of millions of workers. There is a need to prepare for this industrial revolution in skill training, he said.

“Congress has a choice, we have a choice now. We had the same choice when we faced social media; we failed at that choice,” he said. “Congress failed to meet the moment on social media.”

Blumenthal said that Congress could address AI with limitation of use, with requiring transparency from companies to require companies to test while exploring risks.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. “The principal still applies.”

Altman began his testimony by telling the members of Congress why his company was started.

“AI has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives,” he said, “but also it creates serious risks we have to work together to help manage.”

Congressman Adam Schiff agreed that Congress needs to act quickly in regulating AI technology.

“We started having additional hearings,” he said of ways that AI could be managed. Schiff added that he was part of two bipartisan meetings held recently to discuss the possible future of AI.

Like Blumenthal, he said AI companies should be held responsible and does not believe lawmakers can afford to let AI become a social experience without any guardrails.

It does appear that, despite all the disagreement in Washington, there is a willingness to work in a bipartisan way toward regulation of AI.

“Some of these [regulations] will be difficult,” Schiff said.

But what could happen if AI is allowed to go unchecked is something both sides of the aisle are concerned about.

Congress will continue to meet and discuss a future that includes AI.