Ted Lieu: ‘I am freaked out by AI’

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
Greg Nash
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) arrives for a press conference after a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday, January 10, 2023.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) on Monday called on Congress to take more steps to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) in a New York Times op-ed, citing risks associated with self-driving vehicles and facial recognition systems.

“As one of just three members of Congress with a computer science degree, I am enthralled by AI and excited about the incredible ways it will continue to advance society,” he wrote. “And as a member of Congress, I am freaked out by AI, specifically AI that is left unchecked and unregulated.”

Lieu outlined that while AI can have its advantages, including instantaneous search results, navigation systems and fraud protection on credit cards, its risks may cause more harm if it continues to go unregulated. He said teachers and newspaper editors may find it “increasingly difficult” to determine whether someone’s assignment was written by AI or the students.

To prove his point, Lieu used ChatGPT, a free and easy-to-use AI search tool, to write the first paragraph of his op-ed. He logged on to ChatGBT’s free website, and entered a prompt asking, “Write an attention grabbing first paragraph of an op-ed on why artificial intelligence should be regulated.”

“The rapid advancements in AI technology have made it clear that the time to act is now to ensure that AI is used in ways that are safe, ethical and beneficial for society. Failure to do so could lead to a future where the risks of AI far outweigh its benefits,” ChatGPT wrote in the first paragraph.

After ChatGPT was launched in November, schools have taken steps to regulate the use of it among students to deter cheating. New York City and Seattle schools have already banned the technology from students’ devices and school networks.

There are also more serious, harmful risks associated with AI than services like ChatGPT, Lieu said. For example, Tesla’s self-driving AI system was blamed for a car crash in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Tunnel last year when the car “suddenly” stopped, he said.

He also said a lot of the AI technology can cause discrimination when used in facial recognition systems, saying that those systems used by police are more inaccurate for people with darker skin. Last year, he introduced a bill to regulate facial recognition technology used by law encouragement, but he said it will take more time to gain the support he needs for it to pass.

A project conducted by Amnesty International last year found that communities of color in New York City were more likely to be surveilled by facial recognition technology, resulting in a “digital stop-and-frisk.” Some cities have taken steps to regulate this technology, like San Francisco, which banned the use of facial recognition surveillance by its departments.

He said while Congress cannot regulate every aspect of AI, a federal agency dedicated to AI and staffed with experts could. He said he will introduce legislation to create a “nonpartisan AI Commission” that will recommend how to structure a federal agency to regulate AI, before introducing legislation to create a new agency.

“What we need is a dedicated agency to regulate AI,” he wrote. “An agency is nimbler than the legislative process, is staffed with experts and can reverse its decisions if it makes an error. Creating such an agency will be a difficult and huge undertaking because AI is complicated and still not well understood.”

Tags AI AI Regulation ChatGPT congress Regulation Ted Lieu Ted Lieu
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