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Majority Leader Schumer Opening Remarks For The Senate’s Inaugural AI Insight Forum

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today opened the Senate’s inaugural AI Insight Forum. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning! Welcome to the United States Senate’s inaugural bipartisan AI Insight Forum.

I want to thank my fellow Senators for being here. The fact that so many of you are here – from across the political spectrum – shows the importance of this issue. Thanks also go to my colleagues: Senators Rounds, Young and Heinrich who have helped bring us all together here today. And, of course, I want to thank our participants who have traveled from far and wide to be here.

I am really excited about this forum. It is truly unique, and it needs to be unique, because tackling AI is a unique, one-of-a-kind undertaking.

Because today, we begin an enormous and complex and vital undertaking: building a foundation for bipartisan AI policy that Congress can pass.

AI is here and here to stay. Congress must play a role, because without Congress we will neither maximize AI’s benefits, nor minimize its risks.  We know this won’t be easy. This is going to be one of the hardest tasks we undertake, because AI is so complex, will impact nearly every area of life, and is evolving all the time.

In past situations when things were this difficult, the natural reaction of a Senate or a House was to ignore the problem and let someone else do the job. But with AI we can’t be like ostriches sticking our heads in the sand. Only Congress can do the job, and if we wait until after AI has taken hold in society, it will have been too late.

But Congress cannot do it alone. That’s why we brought all of you here today: we need to hear from you. We need help of course from developers and experts who build AI systems. But we also need help from those who are asking tough questions, who care about developing safeguards to minimize AI’s risks.

That means skeptics from outside the industry—like those from labor and civil rights communities—and skeptics from inside the industry who have the necessary technical experience to help us understand the changes that might be needed. Without a wide array of perspectives our efforts will fall short. And that’s why we have put together a very balanced group this morning, for a conversation never before seen in Congress.

If one of our watchwords is bipartisan, another is balance.

We face some important questions: how can we ensure artificial intelligence enriches our world and opens the door to new prosperity? How can we minimize the very real risks?

I believe the solution is prioritizing both innovation and safety. Our framework has been SAFE innovation.

I mean “innovation” in two senses. First, I’m talking about transformative innovation: systems to unlock new cures, improve education, protect national security, protect the global food supply, and more. And I also mean sustainable innovation, to develop the tools to enforce safeguards and find novel solutions and legislation to make AI systems more accountable, transparent, and secure.

We need both.

Without sustainable innovation—without safeguards—these systems could undermine innovation altogether.

Government must play a role in requiring these safeguards. Because even if individual companies promote safeguards, there will always be rogue actors, unscrupulous companies, and foreign adversaries that seek to harm us. And on the transformational side, other governments, including adversaries like China, are investing huge resources to get ahead. We could fall behind, to the detriment of our national security.

So today, we begin the critical work of asking the big questions and translating our answers into concrete action. We won’t be able to get to every topic today. This process will take time. And there will be more forums to continue our work in the months ahead.

Ultimately, I hope these AI Insight Forums will affirm why Congress must act, and help us begin asking the right questions on how and where to start.

Our jobs as legislators will be to listen and learn. And once we listen and learn, we will rely on our committees to lead the way.

So, thank you all for being here. I look forward to our discussion today, and to working with you all on this great effort.