In the wake of escalating concerns about artificial intelligence’s (AI) burgeoning role in modern society, the Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee conducted a hearing to investigate the implications and opportunities presented by AI technologies.

This session brought together leading voices from academia and the technological industry to discuss the implications of generative AI technologies on society, the economy, and governance.

The highlight of Wednesday’s hearing however, was testimony from AI itself.

Representing Artificial Intelligence as a steward was popular chatbot, ChatGPT. The session featured a dynamic exchange of questions with ChatGPT covering a wide array of topics from the impact of AI on jobs and the economy, to ethical and regulatory concerns.

The session, marked by a blend of anticipation and caution, echoed the Committee’s commitment to steering the state through the uncharted waters of AI integration.

“In 2024, we are actually working with Artificial Intelligence – but I fear because of Hollywood and the things we watch growing up that there’s a false notion to what it actually is.” said Chairman Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington).

Rep. Kail went on to underscore the importance of such discussions, stressing the necessity for lawmakers to be “educated, well-versed and poised to take advantage of utilizing AI to our benefit while also setting guardrails to prevent misuse.”

Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland) directed this very issue back to ChatGPT, asking the AI what potential dangers need to be addressed by regulators and state and federal governments when implementing AI technology. Its response focused on potential ethical concerns and bias, privacy concerns, transparency and accountability, cybersecurity threats, and workforce displacement.

Among ChatGPT’s policy proposals to mitigate these risks were the creation of data protection regulations to establish clear guidelines for data collection usage and storage, transparency and accountability regulations requiring AI systems be understandable and traceable, and workforce development initiatives to reskill and upskill workers for the jobs of the future.

Specific questions also explored how to mitigate the risk of students over-relying on AI for academic work, with ChatGPT suggesting enhanced monitoring and AI detection tools to spot plagiarism and automated responses. Additionally, the potential for AI to benefit rural areas was discussed, with applications in precision agriculture, education, and infrastructure management.

Other panelists included Charles Palmer, Associate Professor and Program Lead of Interactive Media, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Margaret Durkin, Executive Director – Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic Region at TechNet, and Madison Gooch, Vice President of watsonx at IBM.

The hearing was the latest move by Republican lawmakers to increase recognition of AI’s revolutionary capacity among members of the caucus and the general public. House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) recently announced the AI Opportunity Task Force, a pioneering endeavor aimed at informing future AI-related legislative policies.

This hearing marks the beginning of a series of discussions, as Pennsylvania lawmakers seek to navigate the complex landscape of AI with informed and nuanced approaches. The initiative reflects a commitment to embracing the opportunities AI presents while addressing the ethical, privacy, and regulatory challenges it poses.

Olivia DeMarco is an Editorial Associate for Broad + Liberty. She previously served as a legislative aide in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She holds a Masters in Public Policy from Temple University.

One thought on “State legislators hold hearings on artificial intelligence”

  1. During Covid my young children expressed sharp disapproval and criticism for saying: sticks and stones can hurt you; names cannot hurt you. That is when I discovered they were learning SEL lessons. So Covid was a gift to our family because it alerted me to the extent of what is going on in our culture. We went from “treat people the way YOU want to be treated” (liberty) to “treat people the way THEY want to be treated” (tyranny.)
    Feb 2024, Computer scientist Debarghya Dasa, a former Google employee, posted on X that it’s “embarrassingly hard to get Google Gemini to acknowledge that white people exist,” showing a series of queries like “generate a picture of a Swedish woman” or “generate a picture of an American woman.” The results exclusively show AI-generated people of color. We live in interesting times.

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