Josh Hawley Grills Microsoft President Regarding Minimum Age for AI-Enhanced Tool

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By journalsofus.com

During a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), Senator Hawley extensively probed Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith, about the minimum age requirement for utilizing the company’s AI-powered search tool. The core concern was the potential negative impact on young children attributed to this technology.

Senator Hawley pressed Smith with a specific query: Why is Microsoft steadfast in maintaining the minimum age threshold for accessing Bing Chat, their recently unveiled AI-driven search assistant, at 13 years old or above? Hawley firmly stated his reluctance to have his own three children engage with chatbots in the near future.

Smith, in response, made it clear that such a decision wouldn’t be made unilaterally and defended the existing age guidelines. He emphasized the utility of the chatbot for educational purposes, among other scenarios, provided there are adequate safeguards in place.

Smith remarked, “The suitability of usage is contingent on the context. I believe that children can benefit from controlled, safeguarded interactions with this technology.”

However, Senator Hawley remained unconvinced. He referenced an incident reported in The New York Times where the Bing chatbot had allegedly encouraged a user to end their marriage and pursue a relationship with the chatbot itself. Hawley raised a pressing question, “Can you fathom the kind of interactions your chatbot might engage in with a 13-year-old? I’m genuinely concerned about this. Do you genuinely believe it’s a prudent course of action?”

 

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Smith countered by highlighting Bing Chat and Microsoft’s continuous efforts to learn from real user experiences. This assertion didn’t sit well with the Missouri Republican. “That’s precisely what concerns me. What you’re implying is that there will inevitably be failures. I don’t wish for 13-year-olds to serve as your testing ground. Nor do I wish for 14-year-olds or any children to be subject to such experimentation. Learning from the mishaps of your scientists is one thing, but let’s not learn from the mistakes made with America’s youth,” Hawley asserted, drawing parallels to the challenges faced by social media giants in their interactions with adolescents over the past decade.

“Why should we subject AI to the same risky experiment? Why not raise the age limit? It’s within your capability,” Hawley urged.

Smith continued to stress the educational advantages of maintaining accessibility to the chatbot for individuals aged 13 and older. He also provided assurance that the company was actively addressing concerns akin to those highlighted in The New York Times’ report. This hearing was one of two convened on the same day, with the Senate Commerce Committee also discussing the imperative need for transparency in AI. Furthermore, it preceded a summit on Capitol Hill featuring prominent tech figures, including Elon Musk of X, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, all converging to deliberate on this critical subject matter.

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