OpenAI Chief to Propose Mandatory License for Firms Building ChatGPT-Like Powerful AI at US Congress

OpenAI, the startup behind ChatGPT, wants the US to consider mandating licenses for companies to develop powerful artificial intelligence like the kind underpinning its chatbot, its chief executive plans to tell Congress on Tuesday.

In his first appearance before a congressional panel, CEO Sam Altman is set to advocate licensing or registration requirements for AI with certain capabilities, his written testimony shows. That way, the US can hold companies to safety standards, for instance testing systems before their release and publishing the results.

“Regulation of AI is essential,” Altman said in the prepared remarks which were seen by Reuters.

For months, companies large and small have raced to bring increasingly dexterous AI to market, throwing endless data and billions of dollars at the challenge. Some critics fear the technology will exacerbate societal harms, among them prejudice and misinformation, while others warn AI could end humanity itself.

The White House has convened top technology CEOs including Altman to address AI. US lawmakers likewise are seeking action to further the technology’s benefits and national security while limiting its misuse. Consensus is far from certain.

An OpenAI staffer recently proposed the creation of a US licensing agency for AI, which could be called the Office for AI Safety and Infrastructure Security, or OASIS, Reuters has reported.

Altman did not comment on OASIS in the written testimony, though he advocated “a governance regime flexible enough to adapt to new technical developments” and “regularly update the appropriate safety standards.”

Technology experts have said licenses risked crowding out smaller players or losing relevance if AI evolves too quickly, though they would help the US focus oversight and protect against abuses.

OpenAI is backed by Microsoft. Altman is also calling for global cooperation on AI and incentives for safety compliance.

Tuesday’s hearing marks an important step toward US oversight, leaders of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Privacy, Technology & the Law have said.

“AI is no longer fantasy or science fiction. It is real, and its consequences for both good and evil are very clear and present,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, the subcommittee’s chair. It is important that AI does not lead to an explosion of disinformation and identity fraud, he said, and the industry should be subject to transparency and accountability.

Another witness on Tuesday will be Christina Montgomery, International Business Machines Corp’s chief privacy and trust officer. She is expected to urge Congress to focus regulation on areas with the potential to do the greatest societal harm.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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