Some of the country’s biggest tech titans descended on Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, meeting behind closed doors for hours with members of the U.S. Senate to discuss artificial intelligence — though some lawmakers lamented the private nature of the talks. 

“I do not understand why the press has been barred from this meeting,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., groused to reporters waiting outside the room.

What You Need To Know

  • The country's biggest tech leaders met with members of the Senate for a closed-door meeting Wednesday

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who organized the closed door forum, told reporters “every single person in the room” thought the government needs to play a role in regulating artificial intelligence

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters that a legislative draft regulating AI safety should be ready by year's end

  • Experts say that Congress needs to quickly get a handle on the challenges AI poses, including how the technology is used, how companies are collecting data and how they're profiting

With journalists kept outside, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who organized the summit, told reporters that “every single person in the room” thought the government needs to play a role in regulating artificial intelligence. 

“That gives us a message here that we have to try and act as difficult as the process may be,” said Schumer. 

“We had a diverse group of participants, they talked at each other unvarnished, everyone learned from everybody else, so I am really pleased. As some of the people who came out said, it was historic,” he added.

CEOs from major tech companies, including Mark Zuckerburg of Meta, Elon Musk of X (formerly known as Twitter) and SpaceX, and Sam Altman of Chat GPT, attended the forum. Musk told reporters upon exiting the meeting he thought “something will come [out] of this.”

"It was a very civilized discussion actually among some of the smartest people in the world,” said Musk. “Sen. Schumer did a great service to humanity here along with the support of the rest of the Senate."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters AI safety should be prioritized, comparing it to the importance of regulatory steps that medications go through before patients take them. 

“We're going to produce a legislative draft I hope by the end of the year,” said Blumenthal, promising “detailed provisions” for licensing requirements. “We need to do what has been done for airline safety, car safety, drug safety, medical device safety. AI safety is no different — in fact, potentially even more dangerous.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who is working with Blumenthal on a legislative framework to protect consumers from AI, criticized the meeting, calling it a “giant cocktail party for the tech industry.”

A major concern is how AI will affect the workplace in the future, and while those concerns are still active, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler told reporters that these types of conversations are a step in the right direction.

“We definitely had a lot to say about workers rights, the risks around job safety and security, civil and human rights, discrimination. But there’s also a lot of technical experts in the room, so we all have a lot to learn, and I think we’re looking forward to additional conversations to make sure that this technology is used for good,” said Shuler, who was joined by other labor and civil rights stakeholders.

Congress is notoriously slow when it comes to advancing legislation, concerning experts who say legislative intervention is needed quickly to get a handle on the challenges AI poses, including how companies are using it, how they are collecting data, and how they are profiting from it.

“I think what Congress ought to be doing, is keeping in mind that the promises they're making right now, are never going to line up with reality, the future of this technology is going to bend towards money, it's going to bend towards wherever the revenue streams are,” said David Karpf, associate professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University.

“The hard questions we should be asking right now are, what are the revenue models of this going to be? And what sorts of behaviors from the companies is that going to encourage,” Karpf asked. “And if those behaviors are bad for us as a society, then we ought to regulate them first rather than waiting and then trying to fix it later.”