AI doomsayers funded by billionaires ramp up lobbying

Article by Brendan Borderlon: “Two nonprofits funded by tech billionaires are now directly lobbying Washington to protect humanity against the alleged extinction risk posed by artificial intelligence — an escalation critics see as a well-funded smokescreen to head off regulation and competition.

The similarly named Center for AI Policy and Center for AI Safety both registered their first lobbyists in late 2023, raising the profile of a sprawling influence battle that’s so far been fought largely through think tanks and congressional fellowships.

Each nonprofit spent close to $100,000 on lobbying in the last three months of the year. The groups draw money from organizations with close ties to the AI industry like Open Philanthropy, financed by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, and Lightspeed Grants, backed by Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn.

Their message includes policies like CAIP’s call for legislation that would hold AI developers liable for “severe harms,” require permits to develop “high-risk” systems and empower regulators to “pause AI projects if they identify a clear emergency.”

“[The] risks of AI remain neglected — and are in danger of being outpaced by the rapid rate of AI development,” Nathan Calvin, senior policy counsel at the CAIS Action Fund, said in an email.

Detractors see the whole enterprise as a diversion. By focusing on apocalyptic scenarios, critics claim, these well-funded groups are raising barriers to entry for smaller AI firms and shifting attention away from more immediate and concrete problems with the technology, such as its potential to eliminate jobs or perpetuate discrimination.

Until late last year, organizations working to focus Washington on AI’s existential threat tended to operate under the radar. Instead of direct lobbying, groups like Open Philanthropy funded AI staffers in Congress and poured money into key think tanks. The RAND Corporation, an influential think tank that played a key role in drafting President Joe Biden’s October executive order on AI, received more than $15 million from Open Philanthropy last year…(More)”.

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