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Historians to AI policymakers: Don’t forget about us
A think tank devoted to building the future of history warns that any meaningful artificial intelligence legislation must include commitments to education, not just calls for regulation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday morning laid out his ideas on how to safely advance artificial intelligence innovation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as he leads an effort in Congress to pass comprehensive regulation.
But with all the conversations and briefings about AI, Jason Steinhauer, a public historian, bestselling author of History Disrupted, and founder of the History Communication Institute, told Supercreator the debate is missing the benefit from the insights and historical perspectives of historians and humanities scholars on a technology that’s primed to transform how humanity operates.
HCI released a statement on Wednesday to make the case that amid all the talk of regulation, there is too little discussion about education — particularly how to ensure that technologists have a well-rounded humanities education that informs the tools they are developing.
For example, ChatGPT, the AI chatbot launched last fall, is a tool for predicting language — not a tool for getting answers to questions. But Steinhauer argues that consumers use it as a tool to get answers to questions due to a lack of transparency or education about what it actually does.
“I feel like the mass rollout of these technologies into the public sphere has been somewhat irresponsible,” he said. “I think, particularly around large language models like ChatGPT, there needed to be and still needs to be so much more education about what these tools actually are, how they work, what they do well, and what they can't do well, and that was, and still largely has been completely absent.”
This is in part because of market dynamics.
“It’s been a little bit of a cash grab by the companies to seize opportunity in the market, to boost their share price, to invest in new products, and roll out new products,” Steinhauer said. “And that’s fine. There’s a place for that in our society, but it has to come with the corresponding educational investments. And we, and I personally, just are concerned that we haven't seen that.”
OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement to Supercreator, Subhan Cheema, a spokesperson for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the Education Department has produced significant work on education and AI, including its recently released first report last month on the future of teaching and learning. To shape the findings and recommendations in the report, the department engaged internal educational policy expertise and in its relationships with AI policy experts.
When the department noticed a sharp rise in interest and concern about AI, Cheema said it conducted a series of four listening tours in June and August 2022 attended by 700 attendees and discovered these constituents wanted immediate action to get ahead of the expected increase of AI in education technology.
And in its ongoing work, the department works closely with educational constituents to develop guidance for educational technology. These groups include educational leaders, researchers, policymakers, advocates and funders, technology developers, community members and organizations, and learners and their families and caregivers.
“From public expression in social media, at conferences, and in news media, the department learned more about risks and benefits of AI-enabled chatbots,” Cheema said. “But this report will not focus on a specific AI tool, service, or announcement, because AI-enabled systems evolve rapidly.”
But Steinhauer said he is unaware of any historians who are advising the White House or Congress. And the teachers and national organizations such as the National Council of Social Studies that HCI regularly speaks with tell the group that they’ve received no resources to deal with AI in their classrooms.
Not to mention, Steinhauer told Supercreator that educational technology is not synonymous with a history or humanities education and people who work in education policy aren’t necessarily professional historians or humanities scholars.
He also said the Education Department’s work doesn’t involve making sure technologists have a historically informed and well-rounded education. For example, large numbers of historians work in museums, archives, libraries, historic homes and houses, and historical societies that are virtually unrelated to the department.
Now that Schumer’s framework is out, he told reporters he plans to invite the top AI experts to Congress and convene a series of first-ever insight forums to develop a new and unique approach to developing AI legislation.
“These insight forums are the first of their kind,” Schumer said. “They have to be because AI moves quickly, will change our world dramatically, is deep in its complexity, and lacks legislative history.”
Schumer said the forums aren’t to replace or supplant the key role Senate committees will play in the process.
“They’re to give the committees the fuel they need to actually draft good strong legislation.”
Meanwhile, in addition to hosting events and publishing reports, Steinhauer told Supercreator HCI intends to dig deeper into these existential issues for creators like copyright and what happens when creative work is scraped by AI and put into the public domain without the controls of or deference to exclusive legal rights.
What fascinated Supercreator in listening to Schumer and Steinhauer yesterday is how they both mentioned the value of humility in their lines of work.
“We need humility as we proceed because this is hard. But we have to do it or the alternative is worse,” Schumer said. “We’re going to work very hard to come up with comprehensive legislation because it’s so important.”
Steinhauer said that the benefit of history is to recognize our humility to realize that even when we try to make choices with the best intentions, it can lead to bad outcomes.
“When we’ve tried to view things in sort of binary simplistic terms, we can oftentimes miss the forest for the trees,” he added. “So it broadens our horizon, it broadens our perspective, and allows us to see things that we’d otherwise miss and hopefully allows us to see deeper, longer-term problems as opposed to focusing on solely short-term problems.”
Perhaps it’s this humility that had Schumer attempting to manage expectations now that his big speech is over and the hard work actually begins.
“Success is not guaranteed. AI is unlike anything we’ve dealt with before and it’s difficult,” he said. “But even if we can find some solutions and create a degree of consensus to deal with some AI’s many challenges, we’ve got to pursue it.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! You’re reading Supercreator Daily, your morning guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Thursday, June 22, 2023. QTNA: Why do short weeks always feel so long?
TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
9 a.m. President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
10 a.m. President Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will greet Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India for the official arrival ceremony. The Senate will also meet.
10:30 a.m. The House will meet with first and last votes expected at 1:30 p.m. Legislation under consideration: A resolution condemning the use of elementary and secondary schools to provide shelter for undocumented immigrants and a resolution to refer impeachment proceedings against President Biden to the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees.
10:45 a.m. The president will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi.
11:45 a.m. The Senate will vote on a disapproval resolution to overturn a Biden administration rule that reclassified pistols with stabilizing brace attachments as short-barreled rifles.
12:45 p.m. The president and Prime Minister Modi will hold a press conference.
1:45 p.m. The Senate will vote to adopt a tax treaty with Chile.
6:30 p.m. President Biden and Dr. Biden will greet Prime Minister Modi on arrival for the state dinner.
6:55 p.m. The president and first lady will participate in a photo op with Prime Minister Modi.
8:45 p.m. President Biden and Dr. Biden will host a state dinner for Prime Minister Modi. Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Emhoff will attend.
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THEY DID THAT
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced she will boycott Prime Minister Modi’s joint address to Congress this afternoon due to his violations of religious freedoms and attacks against press freedom. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) previously announced they will also skip Modi’s speech.
Related: Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Kevin Kiley (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would protect reporters’ First Amendment rights against government surveillance. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Senate version of the bill. See more »
House Republicans censured Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his role in prosecuting former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment and on the January 6th Committee. In the process, they may have accidentally elected Schiff to the Senate, who gave an impassioned floor speech ahead of the vote. See more »
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) a “little bitch” because Boebert introduced her own articles of impeachment against President Biden instead of co-sponsoring Greene’s. This is what your tax dollars are paying for. See more »
The Senate confirmed Natasha Merle in a 50-49 vote to be District Judge for the Eastern District of New York. Merle is President Biden’s 100th confirmed district court nominee. See more »
Vice President Kamala Harris tied John Calhoun for the most Senate tie-breaking votes in US history. Her vote was needed to advance the Merle nomination, but not for confirmation due to a Republican absence. Her next tie-break will move her past John Adams into first place.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) officially announced her campaign for US Senate to replace the retiring Tom Carper. Blunt Rochester, the first woman and Black person to represent Delaware in Congress, is the clear frontrunner and would be just the third Black woman elected to the Senate if she wins. See more »
Sen. Durbin announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up Supreme Court ethics legislation after the July 4th recess. The decision is in response to bombshell investigations that revealed Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito accepted undisclosed lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors with business before the court. See more »
Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would restore the protections to abortion care under Roe v. Wade. The petition needs 218 signatures, which means at least seven Republicans would have to break ranks on a politically divisive issue, which is unlikely. See more»
House Democrats reintroduced the Equality Act to ensure explicit nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ+ Americans. The bill is cosponsored by every member of the House Democratic Caucus and passed the House with bipartisan support in 2019 and 2021. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Senate companion to the bill.
Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) advanced the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to a full vote by the House. The legislation would create the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship within the Fulbright Scholarship Program to support scholars who want to study nonviolent civil rights movements abroad. Williams represents the district Lewis did before he passed away in 2020. See more »
Related: Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) unveiled the United States Postal Service stamp in honor of Rep. Lewis’s life and legacy. The stamp features a photograph of Lewis taken by Marco Grob on assignment for the Aug. 26, 2013, issue of Time magazine. See more »
Howard University announced civil rights lawyer and scholar Sherrilyn Ifill as the inaugural Vernon Jordan Endowed Chair in Civil Rights. In this role, Ifill will launch a multi-disciplinary center at Howard Law School focused on promoting the vision and values articulated in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. See more »
The Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon for the company’s alleged years-long effort to enroll consumers into its Prime program without their consent while intentionally making it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscriptions. Specifically, the significantly redacted complaint charges that Amazon used so-called “dark patterns” to cause consumers to enroll in Prime without their consent, in violation of the FTC Act, and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. See more »
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