Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman talk AI regs in Washington

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The top executives from some of the world’s largest tech and web companies have concluded a closed-door meeting with U.S. lawmakers in Washington D.C., where they reportedly discussed AI technology and potential approaches to regulation.

The Sept.13 Senate ‘AI Insight Forum’ was organized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and attended by 22 tech titans including X (Twitter) owner Elon Musk, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Sam Altman from OpenAI and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, according to the New York Times.

Musk reportedly warned about existential risks from AI exclaiming “If someone takes us out as a civilization, all bets are off,” before adding:

“If you have exceptionally smart A.I., the Communist Party will no longer be in charge of China.”

Speaking to CNBC after the event, he said it is essential to have a “referee” for AI, implying that it needs to be regulated. Musk added that the meeting “may go down in history as being very important for the future of civilization.”

When questioned about AI regulation, he said almost everyone in the room agreed that it needs to happen.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly said AI could help solve big problems, adding that the government needs to balance the “innovation side and building the right safeguards.”

“Over time, AI will be the biggest technological shift we see in our lifetimes. It’s bigger than the shift from desktop computing to mobile, and it may be bigger than the internet itself.”

Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg advocated for open-source AI, stating: “Open source democratizes access to these tools, and that helps level the playing field and foster innovation for people and businesses.”

Meta and Microsoft recently teamed up to launch Llama 2, an open-source large language model from Meta that will feature on Microsoft’s Windows and cloud computing platform Azure.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates raised concerns about security risks, advocating for the government and private sector to work together to minimize them.

Meanwhile, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the firm that created ChatGPT that arguably kicked off the AI frenzy in late 2022 called the meeting an unprecedented moment, adding:

“I think this will be a tool that will empower humanity to a degree that we can’t even imagine,”

During the meeting, Altman said he believed policymakers want “to do the right thing” and was impressed with the speed by which the government wanted to create rules around the technology. 

Related: Cathie Wood bullish on Bitcoin and AI convergence

The White House is expected to release an AI executive order this year while Congress is also considering AI legislation.

The closed-door forum was the first in a series but Senator Chuck Schumer said future meetings will likely be public.

“This is the most difficult issue that Congress is facing because AI is so complex and technical,” said Mr. Schumer.

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