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The who's who of the tech world will gather on Capitol Hill to focus on AI

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

One of the biggest gatherings of tech titans in recent memory takes place on Capitol Hill today. The focus - artificial intelligence. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates will be among the more than 20 business leaders and others meeting with senators behind closed doors. Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previewing what he's dubbed the first of his bipartisan AI Insight Forums.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: All of these groups together in one room talking about how and why Congress must act, what questions to ask and how to build a consensus for safe innovation.

MARTÍNEZ: The meeting is part of a series of gatherings led by Schumer and a bipartisan group of senators to craft AI law. NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is here. So, Claudia, who's got an invite to this thing?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: So all 100 senators are invited to attend, and we're going to see more than 20 guests to invite them each individually. There will be two sessions held today, one in the morning, another in the afternoon. And a source familiar with the planning tells me each session will last about two to three hours. And now, as they each address the senators - and you mentioned a few - others will include the current and ex-CEOs of Google, plus the CEOs of Microsoft and IBM. Also, the leaders of several AI companies will be there, including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who's behind ChatGPT. And we'll also see labor and entertainment leaders attending as well.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. What are they going to be talking about?

GRISALES: So I reached out to a vast majority of the guests attending today, and I heard from a few who say they'll talk about their concerns for regulating AI or the need to protect certain groups. For example, in a preview shared with NPR, IBM's CEO Arvind Krishna will push for the regulation of AI risk, but not its algorithms, so making AI creators and deployers accountable and supporting innovation. Meanwhile, the head of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, said in a statement to us that workers must be central to any AI policy and can't be, quote, "guinea pigs in an AI live experiment." So we're expecting that there could be vigorous and perhaps even heated discussions because of the diversity of the individuals in that room today, including high-profile figures such as Musk and Zuckerberg.

MARTÍNEZ: Ooh, a Capitol Hill cage match. That's what I'm hearing.

GRISALES: (Laughter) Well, we hope not. But we can't forget that at one point, Musk and Zuckerberg were in talks for such a cage match.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

GRISALES: And Zuckerberg called it off after claiming that Musk wasn't setting a date. That said, I reached out to both, and I haven't heard back if that discussion could pick back up today.

MARTÍNEZ: Maybe the Colosseum in Rome is just booked or something.

GRISALES: (Laughter) Right.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, OK, so how do these meetings then today play into the larger effort by Congress to regulate artificial intelligence? Does this get them any closer?

GRISALES: Well, these forums are a broader discussion. They entail more forward-looking talks on possible legislative paths ahead. But Congress historically has failed to regulate emerging tech. Look at social media today, for example. And it's trying to play catch-up now once again with AI. And there's a real lack of expertise in both law and computer science on the Hill for both members and staff. Then add a bitterly divided Congress, and that does not bode well for the future of regulating AI.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, tech always seems to move really fast. That's NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thanks a lot.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.