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US Lawmakers Look at ChatGPT, AI

FILE: Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo taken Feb. 2, 2023.
FILE: Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo taken Feb. 2, 2023.

ChatGPT, a fast-growing artificial intelligence program, has drawn praise for its ability to write answers quickly to a wide range of queries, and attracted U.S. lawmakers' attention with questions about its impact on national security and education.

U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat on the House of Representatives Science Committee, said in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times that he was excited about AI and the "incredible ways it will continue to advance society," but also "freaked out by A.I., specifically A.I. that is left unchecked and unregulated."

To exemplify the power and possible dangers of the program, Lieu introduced a resolution written by ChatGPT that said Congress should focus on AI "to ensure that the development and deployment of AI is done in a way that is safe, ethical, and respects the rights and privacy of all Americans, and that the benefits of AI are widely distributed and the risks are minimized."

ChatGPT was estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users just two months after launch, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history, and a growing target for regulation.

It was created by OpenAI, a private company backed by Microsoft Corp. and made available to the public for free.

Its capabilities has generated fear that generative AI such as ChatGPT could be used to spread disinformation, while educators worry it will be used by students to cheat.

In January, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman went to Capitol Hill where he met with tech-oriented lawmakers such as Senators Mark Warner, Ron Wyden and Richard Blumenthal and Representative Jake Auchincloss, according to aides to the Democratic lawmakers.

Prompted by worries about plagiarism, ChatGPT has already been banned in schools in New York and Seattle, according to media reports. One congressional aide said the concern they were hearing from constituents came mainly from educators focused on cheating.

OpenAI said in a statement: "We don't want ChatGPT to be used for misleading purposes in schools or anywhere else, so we're already developing mitigations to help anyone identify text generated by that system."

Andrew Burt, managing partner of BNH.AI, a law firm focused on AI liability, pointed to the national security concerns, adding that he has spoken with lawmakers who are studying whether to regulate ChatGPT and similar AI systems such as Google's Bard, though he said he could not disclose their names.

"I would expect malicious actors, non-state actors and state actors that have interests that are adversarial to the United States to be using these systems to generate information that could be wrong or could be harmful," Burt said.

ChatGPT itself, when asked how it should be regulated, demurred and said: "As a neutral AI language model, I don't have a stance on specific laws that may or may not be enacted to regulate AI systems like me." But it then went on to list potential areas of focus for regulators, such as data privacy, bias and fairness, and transparency in how answers are written.