Sam Altman says a government agency should license AI companies — and punish them if they do wrong

  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman suggested that a government agency should be formed to oversee AI safety.

  • Such an agency could give licenses to companies for advanced AI work — and revoke them.

  • Altman made the comments on Tuesday at his first appearance before Congress.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told a Senate panel on Tuesday that there should be an agency to police AI projects that operate "above a certain scale of capabilities."

He told lawmakers on a Judiciary subcommittee panel that such an agency should be able to grant licenses for advanced AI work — and be able to take them away if those companies run afoul of established safety rules

The agency could operate possibly like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licenses nuclear power plants and strictly oversees their use, a senator suggested. Altman agreed.

Altman suggested the idea of new agency oversight in response to a question posed by Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who'd brought up a potential scenario involving "a berserk wing of the artificial intelligence community that intentionally or unintentionally could use artificial intelligence to kill all of us and hurt us."

Altman had earlier in the day told senators that the technology could indeed go haywire. "I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong," Altman said during in the hearing. "And we want to be vocal about that, we want to work with the government to prevent that from happening."

OpenAI is behind ChatGPT, perhaps the buzziest of the AI bots that's hit the scene in recent months. Altman, 38, is one of its founders, along with Elon Musk, who has since parted ways with the organization.

A representative for OpenAI did not immediately respond to Insider's emailed request for comment on Tuesday.

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