Thursday, June 1, 2023
In his recent congressional testimony, Sam Altman, the CEO of the company that created ChatGPT, called for the establishment of a new government agency to regulate artificial intelligence. According to Altman, such an agency would require AI companies to obtain a license before developing AI products on a significant scale, with a stringent focus on demonstrating safety. Altman got a good reception on Capitol Hill from both parties.
But establishing a federal AI licensing agency would be harmful. It would retard AI research because investors would hesitate to back companies that might fail to get a license. Given the speculative nature of the risks associated with novel AI technologies, granting significant discretion to government bureaucrats through the licensing process would also open doors for companies to lobby the government to suppress the competition. Altman’s company as well as others already established in the field would be better able to navigate the government bureaucracy than startups. Decreasing the number of companies going into AI exacerbates the risks we face from problems that AI may help address, such as climate change. It also aids our geopolitical adversaries by limiting American advances in AI. Ironically, an agency with remit to license only AI firms it believes are safe will make Americans less safe.