WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans can agree on at least one thing: There is insufficient understanding of artificial intelligence and machine learning in Congress.
So senators organize educational briefings. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, on June 6 announced three such gatherings planned this summer, including a secret session devoted to the employment of artificial intelligence by the US Department of Defense and the intelligence community, as well as AI developments among “our adversaries” such as China and Russia.
“The Senate must deepen our expertise on this pressing issue,” said the release, which is co-sponsored by fellow Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Republican Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana.
“AI is already changing our world” goes on“and experts have told us repeatedly that it will have a profound impact on everything from our national security to our classrooms to our workforce, including potentially significant job displacement.”
The Department of Defense is pouring billions of dollars into the advancement and adoption of artificial intelligence, including a proposed $1.8 billion for fiscal year 2024 alone. China and Russia, considered top national security threats, have invested heavily in artificial intelligence and for military applications.
US officials see artificial intelligence as an invaluable tool for improving performance on the battlefield and in the boardroom. With it, they say, information flows can be analyzed more efficiently, digital networks can be monitored around the clock, targeting of combat vehicles can be improved, maintenance needs can be identified before things break down and decisions can be made. faster than ever.
But a lack of general understanding — what, for example, is the difference between AI, ML, autonomy, bots, large language models, and more — can hinder policymaking on the Hill, spending decisions from there, and growth further.
“I’ve been doing this stuff long enough that I feel like, to some extent, AI has become the buzzword of what cyberspace was 15 or 20 years ago, where everybody in a government program says, ‘I’m going to add this term and see if I can get a little more money for whatever program I have,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, who heads the intelligence committee, said Tuesday at the Scale Gov AI Summit. White House.
“What we’re all trying to work on,” he added, “is how to get educated as quickly as possible.”
Public attention to artificial intelligence and its offshoots skyrocketed following the November release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which is capable of conveying a convincing conversation or generating computer code with minimal prompting. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testified before the Senate in May. He previously raised concerns about the use of artificial intelligence for disinformation campaigns or cyberattacks.
Lawmakers’ study of artificial intelligence and its implications must remain fluid and free of political bias, according to Rounds, who sits on the armed services committee.
“We’re trying to combine and create a process where members of the US Senate can really come to a common understanding of exactly what we mean when we talk about ‘machine learning’ or ‘AI,’ what it really is in terms of its current state, what it looks like today,” he said at the summit where Warner spoke.
“And we’re trying to do that as a group on a bipartisan basis,” he said, “so that people can bring their ideas and be able to accommodate other parts of the industry to come to different members and say, ‘These are the concerns we have”.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration – specifically Cold War liquidation and nuclear weapons development – for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award winning photographer.
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