US senators express bipartisan alarm about AI, focusing on biological attack

US senators express bipartisan alarm about AI, focusing on biological attack


OpenAI, Meta Platforms made voluntary commitments to White House to watermark AI-generated content

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Both Democratic and Republican senators expressed about the potential for a malevolent use of artificial intelligence, focusing on the possibility of AI being used to create a biological attack.

In a hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dario Amodei, chief executive of the AI company Anthropic, said that AI could help otherwise unskilled malevolent actors develop biological weapons.

"Certain steps in bioweapons production involve knowledge that can't be found on Google or in textbooks and requires a high level of expertise," said Amodei, whose company worked with biosecurity experts on a study of biological risks arising from AI. "We found that today's AI tools can fill in some of these steps."

Amodei said that AI was not yet capable of helping to build a biological weapon, calling it a "medium-term" risk.

"By enabling many more actors to carry out large-scale biological attacks, we believe this represents a grave threat to U.S. national security," he said.

Subcommittee chair Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, expressed alarm.

"The experts building these systems are warning of human extinction," he said in opening remarks. "The goal for this hearing is to lay the ground for legislation. To go from general principles, to specific recommendations. To use this hearing to write laws."

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, called for safeguards "that will ensure this new technology is actually good for the American people."

The hearing takes place days after AI companies including OpenAI, Alphabet and Meta Platforms made voluntary commitments to the White House last week to implement measures such as watermarking AI-generated content to help make the technology safer.

Since generative AI, which uses data to create new content like ChatGPT's human-sounding prose, made headlines early this year, lawmakers around the world began considering how to mitigate the dangers of the emerging technology to national security and the economy.