California considers unique safety regulations for AI companies, but faces opposition from tech firms

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California lawmakers are considering a bill that would regulate powerful artificial intelligence systems

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers are considering legislation that would require artificial intelligence companies to test their systems and add safeguards to take out the state's electric grid or use chemical weapons. They cannot possibly be manipulated to aid construction. This may be possible in the future as technology develops rapidly.

Lawmakers plan to vote Tuesday on the first-of-its-kind bill, which aims to reduce the risks posed by AI. Tech companies including Facebook and Instagram's parent company Meta and Google have strongly opposed it. They argue that regulations are aimed at developers and should instead be focused on those who use and exploit AI systems to cause harm.

Democratic state Sen. Scott Weiner, who authored the bill, said the proposal would provide adequate safety standards by preventing “catastrophic harm” from the most powerful AI models created in the future. The requirements would only apply to systems that would cost more than $100 million in computing power to train. As of July, no current AI model has reached this limit.

“This is not about small AI models,” Weiner said at a recent legislative hearing. “It's about incredibly large and powerful models that, as far as we know, don't exist today but will exist in the near future.”

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has touted California as an early AI adopter and regulator, saying the state could soon deploy generative AI tools to ease highway congestion, make roads safer and provide tax guidance. can Also, his administration is considering new laws against AI discrimination in hiring practices. He declined to comment on the bill but warned that overregulation could put the state in a “dangerous position.”

The proposal, which is backed by some prominent AI researchers, would also create a new state agency that would oversee developers and provide best practices. The State Attorney General will also be able to take legal action in case of violation.

A growing coalition of tech companies say the requirements will discourage companies from developing large AI systems or keeping their technology open source.

“This bill will make the AI ​​ecosystem less secure, threaten open source models relied on by startups and small businesses, rely on standards that don't exist, and introduce regulatory fragmentation,” he said. Rob Sherman, Meta's vice president and deputy chief privacy officer, wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

The state's chamber of commerce said the proposal could drive companies out of the state to avoid regulations.

Opponents want to wait for further guidance from the federal government. Supporters of the bill said California can't wait, citing hard lessons they learned not to act too soon to regulate social media companies.

State lawmakers were also considering another ambitious measure Tuesday to fight automation discrimination when companies use AI models to screen job resumes and rental apartment applications.

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