White House asks Big Tech for AI answers

Washington rolled out the red carpet for big tech’s A-listers yesterday, but instead of asking them who they’re wearing, the Silicon Valley equivalent of the Avengers were quizzed about AI.  

Driving the news: A who’s who of Big Tech met in Washington yesterday to discuss safeguards for AI, with industry leaders and lawmakers acknowledging that AI regulation will be challenging but necessary. 

  • Attendees included Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, OpenAI’s Sam Altman, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and Google’s Sundar Pichai.

Catch up: The US government has already begun laying the groundwork for AI legislation. In July, the White House had Google OpenAI and Microsoft sign on to its voluntary AI commitments—a step that’s meant to serve as a placeholder for future legislation.

  • Adobe, IBM, Nvidia and Salesforce all signed on to the voluntary commitments this week ahead of the forum.

  • The Biden administration is also in the midst of crafting an executive order on AI—another stopgap measure.  

Why it’s happening: Lawmakers can’t regulate something they don’t understand (or they probably shouldn’t, at least). The forum is meant to convene the key players in AI to help lawmakers get their arms around the thorny issues raised by the technology.

  • AI is already creating problems, from lying chatbots to deepfakes to copyright issues related to the training of large-language models.

  • OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman—who fired the starting gun in the AI race last year—said the meeting in Washington is “an important, urgent, and in some ways unprecedented moment.”

Why it matters: As AI advances at a rapid clip, lawmakers are scrambling to get up to speed on a technology that could reshape how we work and live. Here’s hoping they’re getting good advice from the tech bigwigs.—LA