senate hearing on AI

Senate Hearing on AI: 7 Learning Points

On Tuesday, May 16th, 2023, in a hearing titled, “Artificial Intelligence in Government”, there was a US Senate hearing to discuss dangers, oversight, and policy pathways on Artificial Intelligence.

The witnesses were OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, IBM Chief Privacy and Trust Officer, Christina Montgomery, and AI Critic and ProfessorEmeritus of Psychology at New York University, Gary Marcus.

This senate hearing is significant because it underlines how much AI has grown in public view, to attract the interest of US lawmakers. Of course, AI is not a new concept. However, it is just having its moment in the limelight.

Here are 7 takeaways from the hearing.

Ethical considerations

One of the main concerns surrounding AI is the need to address its ethical implications. This includes issues such as algorithmic bias, privacy concerns, potential job displacement, and the overall impact on society. It is important to develop policies and regulations that ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI systems.

National security

AI has significant implications for national security and defense. Discussions during the senate hearing involved exploring ways to leverage AI technologies for defense purposes while considering the associated risks and potential vulnerabilities. Concerns related to adversarial uses of AI and cybersecurity were also addressed.

Education and workforce

The impact of AI on the job market and the workforce is acritical topic of discussion. OpenAI’s Sam Altman, who only recently, was in Lagos for an exclusive event, reiterated what we’ve all known; that AI would automate away some jobs, while creating new ones. Therefore, there is a need for big tech to prepare the workforce of today and tomorrow to partner with AI. Investments in education and skills training programs that equip individuals with the necessary expertise to thrive in an AI-driven economy need to be sponsored by governments and tech companies.

Research and development

It is imperative that governments invest in AI research and development so as to maintain their     competitive edge in the global AI landscape. Discussions revolving around funding initiatives, supporting innovation, and fostering collaboration between the government, academia, and industry need to take center stage.

International collaboration

Considering the global implications of AI development and deployment, strategies for collaborating with international partners and addressing intellectual property concerns need to be developed to ensure high ethical standards for AI use cases.

Data privacy and protection

Given the increasing reliance on data for AI systems, discussions touched on data privacy and protection. Senators considered the need for comprehensive data protection legislation and explored ways to balance privacy concerns with the benefits of utilizing data for AI advancements.

Sam Altman insisted that his company does not consider the advertisement revenue model. This model has been controversial because it blurs the lines with respect to the privacy of users’ data, since big tech is alleged to sell user data to advertising partners for profit.

However, with the rate at which AI tools are spurning, it is only a matter of time before one of these companies decides to go the advertisement route, cash out, and motivate others to do so. Hence the need for regulatory oversight on AI, methinks.

Regulation and oversight

Congress explored the role of government in regulating AI to ensure responsible and ethical practices. Discussions focused on striking the right balance between fostering innovation and establishing regulations that mitigate potential risks. The witnesses emphasized that rather than AI as a discipline being regulated, the use cases of the technology should be regulated instead. This is to ensure that regulation does not stifle innovation.

Recommendations for AI Oversight:

1.     Safety review and impact assessment of all new AI technologies prior to release into the market.

2.     Formulation of a licensing agency for certain grades of AI use cases (for instance in areas which shape human perception).

3.     Independent audits of AI models by third parties.

4.     Generative AI must ensure that generated products are not deceptive. It must make be clearly shown that the work product was generated by AI.


Times are changing. It is novel and quite frankly, a bit scary for leaders in the AI industry to come to Congress begging to be regulated. This implies that the public does not know the full capabilities of AI. It also means that most of our wildest imaginations are perhaps possible with AI.

It was evident that even the creators of these AI tools lack enough understanding of it to control it. As I listened to the senate hearing proceedings, I kept thinking: “Well, AI litigation and Cybersecurity would blow up in the near future”. These are career prospects to explore.

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