In what a cynic (or a conservative who’s been paying attention the last decade or so) might view as an unusual and welcome twist, there appears to be an effort by GOP congressional members to get ahead of the impending and possibly ubiquitous influence of artificial intelligence (AI).
The cynic can be forgiven his pessimism because, despite excuses from some left-leaning news outlets (but more on that in a minute), there is a very real concern that AI – promising as it does a growth comparable to the rise of the internet in the mid-90s — could easily become systemically biased against conservatives themselves.
Recognizing this, and no doubt eager not to underestimate AI’s potential, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley announced the No Section 230 Immunity for AI Act (if the name doesn’t speak volumes, you need to do a little reading) on June 14. Essentially, the legislation would do what it suggests: make companies found complicit in harm as the result of generative AI liable for damages.
It’s an important move (although certainly not the only legislation floating out there seeking to control the next big thing), primarily because that sneering Vice article linked above attempts to debunk reports of bias in AI in a way that strains credulity (emphasis mine).
National Review staff writer Nate Hochman wrote the piece after attempting to get OpenAI’s chatbot to tell him stories about Biden’s corruption or the horrors of drag queens. Conservatives on Twitter then attempted various inputs into ChatGPT to prove just how “woke” the chatbot is. According to these users, ChatGPT would tell people a joke about a man but not a woman, flagged content related to gender, and refused to answer questions about Mohammed. To them, this was proof that AI has gone “woke,” and is biased against right-wingers.
Rather, this is all the end result of years of research trying to mitigate bias against minority groups that’s already baked into machine learning systems that are trained on, largely, people’s conversations online.
It appears Vice’s explanation for apparent bias is that the internet doesn’t have enough hateful material from which to pull answers that would satisfy conservative requests. Even if one chooses to ignore the implied insult, the suggestion that the internet is somehow lacking in non-progressive content is simply absurd.
And let’s talk about OpenAI, the former nonprofit famously co-founded by Elon Musk that developed the ChatGPT chatbot. Is it possible to determine if conservatives’ “panic” over AI bias is overwrought?
OpenAI, originally a nonprofit, was started by a batch of tech entrepreneurs including Sam Altman, Reid Hoffman, Greg Brockman, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk. The initial investment was hyped to be about $1 billion; but it was later revealed the organization took in just over $100 million in donations from its inception in 2015 through 2021.
It has since transitioned, with much fanfare, to a for-profit, leaving Musk at least questioning – in seriously hilarious fashion by using the organization’s own chatbot — if that transition was legal and ethical.
Elon Musk tweeted Saturday a ChatGPT conversation that speculated about the 2019 transition of its creator, OpenAI, from a nonprofit to a for-profit organization. The AI chatbot concluded that, if the for-profit business had used the nonprofit’s resources for the change, it would have been “highly unethical and illegal.”
While the media was focusing on the for-profit transition, they failed to take much interest in what TechCrunch acknowledges: the tax filings of the nonprofit entity and the behavior of now-CEO Sam Altman tell a revealing story about the way AI programming could be headed.
TechCrunch had this to say in justifying OpenAI’s transition to a for-profit company: “Tax filings seen by TechCrunch indicate the original OpenAI nonprofit retained control over all of its financial assets, totaling tens of millions of dollars, meaning none of its money was used to spin out the organization’s commercial enterprises. The interesting part is where that money ended up: financing Universal Basic Income pilots aiming to fix the very problems OpenAI’s technologies seem to be creating.”
Altman is a big fan of a UBI and has been funding a nonprofit called UBI Charitable, which carries a mission “to research and deploy Universal Basic Income (UBI) programs — the no-strings-attached payouts scheme that futurists like Altman and Musk believe will be necessary when advances in robotics and AI, similar to those being developed by the two technologists, render many human occupations unprofitable.”
Perhaps it goes without saying, but UBI is not a popular policy among conservatives.
There’s also the fact that the 2020 list of funding from OpenAI reads like a leftist wish-list of activist organizations. The ACLU, SPLC, Equal Justice Initiative, and The Tides Foundation, among others, all make appearances on the 2020 tax filings.
For his part, Altman likes to donate to Democrats, giving $250K in 2020 to a Biden-supporting Super PAC. He’s also become quite the world traveler, as this very approving piece in a Chinese tech media outlet makes clear.
Altman is truly humble.
According to incomplete statistics from PingWest, Altman has had meeting with a long and sumptuous list of policymakers. This includes European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, UK Prime Minister Sajid Javid, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, and UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, among others.
While none of this information proves AI is absolutely headed toward programming bias, it does start to reveal a pattern. A majority of AI researchers are financed by Big Tech, and Big Tech tends to give almost all of its political donations to Democrats. When you layer on top that AI is already being used in popular editing software like Grammerly – and appears to have a distinct point of view – and that some of tech’s biggest left-leaning funders like Dustin Moskovitz and Sam Bankman-Fried are huge fans of AI’s potential, it’s no wonder conservatives are worried and Republicans are already moving on legislation.
This article originally appeared in Townhall on June 16, 2023.