On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts made history by delivering a speech on the floor of the U.S. House that was generated by an AI chatbot. The speech, which was read by the Massachusetts Democrat, was about a bill that would establish a joint U.S.-Israel AI Center in the United States as a hub for AI research and development across the public, private, and education sectors.
According to Auchincloss’s staff, this is the first time an AI-written speech was read in Congress, marking a significant moment in the history of AI and its impact on politics and society. Auchincloss prompted the AI chatbot, called ChatGPT, to write 100 words about the legislation, and he refined the prompt several times to produce the final text.
Auchincloss explained that part of the decision to read a ChatGPT-generated text was to help spur debate on AI and the challenges and opportunities created by it. He said that as the youngest parent in the Democratic caucus, AI is going to be a significant part of his life and the lives of his children, and he wants to ensure that Congress is prepared to address the impact of this technology.
“I don’t want to see a repeat of the advent of social media, which started small and ballooned faster than Congress could react,” said Auchincloss. “We need to be proactive in understanding the potential implications of AI and developing policies that will guide its use and development.”
The release of ChatGPT and other AI programs available on the internet is already posing a challenge for teachers who must now grapple with the possibility of students handing in AI-generated essays. Researchers also worry that AI chatbots could help turbocharge efforts to spread misinformation and propaganda. OpenAI, the nonprofit that created ChatGPT, has acknowledged on its website that ChatGPT “can occasionally produce incorrect answers” and that its responses will sometimes be misleading as a result of how it learns. It recommends users check whether responses are accurate or not.
Despite these concerns, Auchincloss believes that lawmakers and others should not be reflexively hostile to the new technology, but also should not wait too long before drafting policies or new laws to help regulate it. In particular, he argued that the country needs a “public counterweight” to the big tech firms that would help guarantee that smaller developers and universities have access to the same cloud computing, cutting edge algorithms and raw data as larger companies.
“There were probably about a dozen of my colleagues on the floor. I bet none of them knew it was written by a computer,” he said. “But I hope that this demonstration of the capabilities of AI will spark a larger conversation about how we can harness its potential while also addressing its potential negative impacts.”
As AI continues to evolve and become more integrated into our daily lives, it’s crucial that policymakers and lawmakers understand the implications of this technology and work to develop policies that will guide its use and development. Auchincloss’s speech, generated by ChatGPT, serves as a reminder of the importance of this conversation and the need to be proactive in understanding the potential implications of AI.