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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Success Of The Inaugural AI Insight Forum

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding yesterday’s successful, bipartisan Insight Forum on artificial intelligence.  Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Yesterday, Senators from both sides of the aisle participated in one of the most informative and historic discussions ever held in the Congress.

Many of us came out of our first AI Insight Forum exhilarated. The debate was illuminating. The discussions candid, unvarnished, direct. I want to thank Senators Rounds, Heinrich, and Young for joining me in leading the discussion – they helped make yesterday an all-out success.

I want to thank every Senator who attended. We had great turnout: I’m told about 70 Senators from both parties attended, and I think we all left with a greater understanding and appreciation of AI’s importance and complexity.

By the end of the day, everyone in the room did reach consensus on a few important points.

First, Congress must play a role – must play a role – in regulating AI. One of the most striking moments of the forum was when I asked all of the participants – the critics, the experts, the developers alike – to raise their hands if they agreed that government had to be involved, and we had universal support. Not one person had their hand down.

Second, most everyone agreed that the government must also play a role promoting what we call transformational innovation. Bill Gates talked about AI’s potential for combatting hunger worldwide. Eric Schmidt and others talked about the ways AI can help doctors do their job. Senator Rounds in a touching moment talked about losing his wife to cancer, which hit home to a lot of people in the room – as it does with millions and millions of Americans. And it led to a conversation about how AI can be used one day to model never-before-seen drugs to do the unthinkable: cure cancer.

But at the same time, with equal vehemence, maybe even more, we had a consensus on the need for guardrails, for a sustainable innovation. Because just as AI can be used to design cancer cures, it could also – if things went wrong – be used to make terrible bioweapons or other dangers. I think everyone at the Forum agreed that if we don’t do anything on AI, then the lowest common denominator could occur: racial bias that’s in our society would be enshrined in AI, massive job displacement, and even more unthinkable doomsday scenarios. So, we talked about the need for not only transformational innovation that does the positive, but for sustainable innovation, where the government instills guardrails to minimize these risks. It’s called sustainable because AI won’t be able to go forward if we don’t have guardrails to prevent the various downsides.

And we agreed, only the government can fill in the hole of creating – and enforcing – these guardrails, because even if a good number of private companies do the responsible thing and regulate themselves, there will always be outlier companies who don’t. And that brings the lowest common denominator way down.

Finally, there was a consensus that we need to find balance between innovation and guardrails. This won’t be easy, but it’s essential. You can’t go too far in either direction. We want to both maximize the benefits and minimize the risks, and if you go too far on one side you may hurt the other. So, Congress must pay attention to both. That isn’t easy. This is going to be one of the toughest jobs the Congress has ever undertaken, but one of the most important and one of the most necessary.

Now, to be sure, we didn’t cover everything at yesterday’s forum. We’re just at the beginning: the conversation that began yesterday will continue into the fall and beyond when we host even more AI Insight Forums. And our committees, which will have to do the work, the real work of crafting legislation, they’ve already held a dozen hearings and are going to hold a lot more using what we learned at the forums to help craft legislation. We have a lot of work in front of us, but yesterday’s conversation gave the Senate a strong sense of where to begin and was a decided blow to the ostriches around here who might put their heads in the sand and say it's too complicated, it’s too difficult, let's do nothing.

Thanks to all our participants who came to yesterday’s AI Forum. Thanks to Senators Rounds and Young and Heinrich for hosting with me, and thanks to all my colleagues who joined. Let’s now look ahead, to our second AI Insight Forum, which will happen very soon.