D.C. aides learn about AI at Stanford boot camp

STANFORD, Calif. — When synthetic intelligence pioneer and Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li met with President Biden throughout his latest journey to Silicon Valley, she steered the dialog towards the know-how’s large upsides.

As a substitute of debating predictions that AI may trigger humanity’s doom, Li mentioned, she urged Biden to make a “serious investment” in sustaining America’s analysis lead and growing “truly benevolent applications of AI.”

On Wednesday morning, Li was on seated on a small stage in a stately eating corridor on Stanford’s serene Palo Alto campus, subsequent to Condoleezza Rice, the director of Stanford College’s Hoover Establishment, a conservative assume tank. The ladies have been discussing AI’s affect on democracy, the ultimate panel in a three-day boot camp on the know-how.

In entrance of them, a bipartisan viewers of greater than two dozen D.C. coverage analysts, attorneys and chiefs of workers sat of their assigned seats, chopping into their particular person fruit tarts.

Hosted by Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI), the place Li serves as co-director, the occasion supplied a crash course on AI’s advantages and dangers for information-starved staffers staring down the potential for legislating a fast-moving know-how in the midst of a gold rush.

A whole bunch of Capitol Hill denizens utilized for the camp’s 28 slots, a 40 p.c improve from 2022. Attendees included aides for Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), in addition to coverage analysts and attorneys for Home and Senate committees on commerce, international affairs, strategic commerce with China and extra.

Stanford’s boot camp for legislators started in 2014 with a deal with cybersecurity. As the race to construct generative AI sped up, the camp pivoted solely to AI final yr.

The curriculum coated AI’s potential to reshape training and well being care, a primer on deepfakes, in addition to a disaster simulation the place members had to make use of AI to answer a nationwide safety menace in Taiwan.

“We’re not here to tell them how they should legislate,” mentioned HAI’s director of coverage, Russell Wald. “We’re simply here to just give them the information.” College members disagreed with each other and straight challenged firms, mentioned Wald, pointing to a session on tech habit and one other on the perils of accumulating the info essential to gasoline AI.

However for an instructional occasion, the camp was additionally inextricably tied to business. Li has performed stints at Google Cloud and as a Twitter board member. Google’s AI ambassador, James Manyika, spoke at a fireplace chat. Executives from Meta and Anthropic spoke to the viewers Wednesday afternoon for the camp’s closing session, discussing the function business can play in shaping AI coverage. HAI’s donors embody LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, a Democratic megadonor whose start-up, Inflection AI, launched a customized chatbot in Might.

The price of the boot camp was primarily paid for by the Patrick J. McGovern Basis, mentioned Wald, who mentioned his division of HAI doesn’t take company funding.

Reporters have been solely allowed to attend the closing festivities on the situation that they not identify nor quote congressional aides to permit them to talk freely.

The boot camp is one among many behind-the-scenes efforts to coach Congress since ChatGPT launched in November. Chastened by years of inaction on social media, regulators try to stand up to hurry on generative AI. These all-purpose techniques, skilled on massive quantities of internet-scraped information, can be utilized to spin up pc code, designer proteins, faculty essays or brief movies based mostly on person’s instructions.

Again in D.C., legislators are crafting guardrails round this know-how. The White Home has launched an govt order instructing AI corporations to determine manipulated media, whereas Senate Majority Chief Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is commandeering an “all hands on deck” effort to put in writing new guidelines for AI.

Even amongst specialists, nonetheless, there may be little consensus across the limitations and social affect of the most recent AI fashions, elevating issues together with exploitation of artists, little one security and disinformation campaigns.

Tech corporations, billionaire tech philanthropists and different particular curiosity teams have seized on this uncertainty — hoping to form federal insurance policies and priorities by shifting the way in which lawmakers perceive AI’s true potential.

Civil society teams, who additionally need to current lawmakers with their perspective, don’t have entry to the identical sources, mentioned Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a former adviser to the White Home Workplace of Science and Expertise Coverage and a professor at Brown College, who engages on these points alongside the nonprofit Algorithmic Justice League.

“One thing we have learned over the years is that we honestly do not know about the harms — about impacts of technology — until we talk to the people who experience those harms,” Venkatasubramanian mentioned. “This is what civil society tries to do, bring the harms front and center,” in addition to the advantages, when applicable, he mentioned.

Throughout a Q&A with Meta and Anthropic, a legislative director for a Home Republican mentioned the group had seen a presentation on how efficient AI may very well be at pushing misinformation and disinformation. In gentle of that, he requested the panel, what ought to AI corporations do earlier than the 2024 election?

Anthropic co-founder Jack Clark mentioned it will be useful if AI corporations obtained FBI briefings or different intel on election-rigging efforts in order that corporations know what phrases to search for.

“You’re in this cat-and-mouse game with people trying to subvert your platform,” Clark mentioned.

Throughout the panel on AI and democracy, Li mentioned her hope when co-founding HAI was to work carefully with Stanford’s coverage facilities, such because the Hoover Establishment, including that she and Rice talk about the implications of AI within the palms of authoritarian regimes after they have drinks. “Wine time,” Rice mentioned, clarifying.

By the top of their speak, Stanford’s skill to sway Washington sounded virtually as highly effective as any tech large. After Rice commented that “a lot of the world feels like this is being done to them,” Li shared that she visited the State Division a pair months in the past and tried to emphasise the boon this know-how may very well be to the health-care and agriculture sectors. It was essential to speak these advantages to the worldwide inhabitants, Li mentioned.

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