At an unprecedented closed-door meeting that brought together most of the U.S. Senate and the country's top tech leaders on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to start simple. "I asked everyone in the room, 'Is government needed to play a role in regulating AI?'" he told reporters after the meeting. "And every single person raised their hands."
The much-hyped forum on artificial intelligence, which was closed to the press and the public, was meant to set the tone for collaboration between the world's biggest tech companies and Congress as it seeks to pass bipartisan AI legislation within the next year. But the six-hour meeting highlighted the current state of play in Washington when it comes to AI, where it has become much easier to agree on high-level discussions on the "existential risks" posed by the rapidly evolving technology than on any specific constraints or a plan of action.
That rhetorical disconnect was clear as some of the richest men in America, including Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, filed out of the room. Musk told reporters that the meeting "may go down in history as being very important for the future of civilization." Others, including some among the roughly 40 Senators who didn't attend, took a less grandiose view of the proceedings. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who skipped the event, said he refused to participate in what he called a "giant cocktail party for big tech."
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