A congressman wanted to understand AI. So he went back to the college classroom to learn.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Don Baer’s car dealership was among the first in America to set up a Web site. As a representative, the Virginia Democrat leads a bipartisan group focused on promoting fusion energy. He reads geometry books for fun.

So when questions arose about regulating artificial intelligence, Baer, ​​73, took what seemed like an obvious step to him, enrolling at George Mason University to pursue a master’s degree in machine learning. In an era when legislators and Supreme Court justices sometimes admit they don’t understand. An emerging technology, Baer’s journey is a big one, but it highlights a broader effort by members of Congress to educate themselves about artificial intelligence as they consider legislation that could advance its development. will form

Terrifying to some, thrilling to others, surprising to many: artificial intelligence is seen as a transformative technology, a threat to democracy or even A threat to human existence. It will be up to members of Congress to figure out how. Regulate the industry In a way that encourages it. Potential benefits while reducing the worst risks.

But first they have to understand what AI is, and what it isn’t.

“I hope for an AI,” Beer told The Associated Press after a recent afternoon class at George Mason’s campus in suburban Virginia. “We can’t imagine how different our lives will be in five years, 10 years, 20 years because of AI. … There won’t be. Robot with red eyes Coming after us anytime soon. But there are other, deeper existential threats that we need to address.

Risks such as massive job losses in industries made obsolete by AI, programs that recover Biased or Incorrect resultsor Deepfake photos, video and audio which can be taken advantage of. Political disinformation, Scams or Sexual abuse. On the other side of the equation, hard Regulations It could stifle innovation, which could hurt America. Other nations want to use force. of AI.

Striking the right balance will require input not only from tech companies but also from industry critics, as well as the industries that AI could transform. While many Americans may have formed their own opinions about AI. Science fiction movies Like Terminator or The Matrix, it is important that legislators have a clear understanding of the technology.

When lawmakers have questions about AI, Obernolte is one of the people they look to. He studied engineering and applied science at the California Institute of Technology and earned an MS in artificial intelligence at UCLA. The California Republican also started his own video game company. Obernolte said he has been “very pleasantly impressed” by how seriously his colleagues on both sides of the aisle are taking their responsibility to understand AI.

That shouldn’t be surprising, Obernolte said. After all, lawmakers regularly vote on bills that touch on complex legal, financial, health and scientific subjects. If you think computers are complicated, look at the rules governing Medicaid and Medicare.

Keeping up with the pace of technology has challenged Congress. Steam engines And Cotton gin Changed the industrial and agricultural sectors of the country. Nuclear power and weapons are another example of a highly technical topic that lawmakers have had to contend with in recent decades, according to University of Michigan political scientist Kenneth Lawande, who has studied expertise and its policy in Congress. What’s the connection with Sazi?

Federal legislators have created several offices. Library of Congressthe Congressional Budget Office, etc. — to provide resources and specialized input when necessary. They also rely on staff with specific expertise in subject matter, including technology.

Then there is another, more informal form of education that many members of Congress receive.

“They have interest groups and lobbyists knocking on their doors to brief them,” Lawande said.

Baer said he has had a lifelong interest in computers and wanted to learn more when AI emerged as a topic of public interest. much more. Almost all of his fellow students are decades younger. Baer said most people aren’t that upset when they find out their classmate is a congressman.

He said the classes, which he fits around his busy congressional schedule — are already paying off. He has learned about the development of AI and the challenges faced in the field. He said it helped him understand the challenges. Prejudices, Unreliable data – and possibilities, such as better cancer diagnosis and more efficient supply chains.

Bear is also learning how to write computer code.

“I’m finding that learning to code—which is this kind of calculated, algorithmic step-by-step thinking, is helping me think differently about a lot of other things—how you put together an office, It’s how you operate the legislation,” Baer said.

Although a computer science degree is not required, it is important that lawmakers understand the implications of AI for the economy. National Defense, Health careAccording to Chris Pearson, CEO of cybersecurity firm Blackcloak, education, personal privacy and intellectual property rights.

“AI is not good or bad,” said Pearson, who previously worked at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington. “It’s how you use it.”

The work to protect AI has already begun, though so far the executive branch is leading the way. Last month, the White House unveiled New rules which requires federal agencies to demonstrate that their use of AI is not harming the public. Under one Executive order Issued last year, AI developers must provide information about the security of their products.

When it comes to more concrete action, America is playing catch-up. United Europewhich recently Enacted the world’s first major laws. Controlling the development and use of AI. The laws prohibit some uses — routine AI-enabled facial recognition by law enforcement, for one — while requiring other programs to collect information about safety and public threats. The landmark law is expected to serve as a blueprint for other nations as they consider their own AI laws.

As Congress begins the process, the focus should be on “minimizing the potential damage,” said Obernolte, who said he hopes lawmakers from both parties can find common ground to prevent AI’s worst threats. can find

“Nothing important will be done that is not bipartisan,” he said.

To help guide the conversation, lawmakers created a new AI Task Force (Obernolte is co-chairman) as well as an AI Caucus made up of lawmakers with special expertise or interest in the topic. They’ve invited experts to educate lawmakers about the technology and its implications — and not just computer scientists and tech gurus, but representatives from various fields who see AI’s risks and rewards.

Representative Anna Esho The Democratic chairwoman of the caucus is She represents a part of California’s Silicon Valley and recently Introduced the law That would require tech companies and social media platforms like Meta, Google or TikTok to introduce AI-generated identification and labeling. Deep Fax So that people are not misled. He said the caucus has already proven its value as a “safe space” where lawmakers can ask questions, share resources and begin to build consensus.

“There is no such thing as a bad or stupid question,” she said. “Before you can accept or reject something, you have to understand it.”

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