EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told a group of tech leaders, union leaders and artificial intelligence experts on Wednesday that AI’s rapid advancement has inspired calls for “a new Manhattan-like project” and how the government should regulate AI — if at all — is still a matter of debate.
Rounds, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is leading the first in a series of bipartisan AI Insight Forums designed to help lawmakers get ahead of AI as it permeates everyday life. Wednesday’s session saw the attendance of Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, X owner Elon Musk, AFL-CIO union boss Elizabeth Shuler and others.
“Today, we stand at the beginning of a journey of monumental change. While Artificial Intelligence has been around in various forms for years, recent advances in the most cutting-edge models have shown us just how capable the technology has become,” Rounds told the closed-door meeting, according to prepared comments obtained exclusively by Fox News Digital.
“Thanks to these advancements, you would have a hard time determining whether this speech was created with a generative model — it was not — and soon the same might be said for any photo or video that you encounter online.”
He added, “The trust that forms the foundation of society can be felt shifting under our feet as we begin to wonder if seeing is truly believing.”
Rounds pointed out that AI is now involved in core facets of society from the economy to the U.S. military.
“Exactly how and when, and what role Congress should play, is a matter of debate — one we’ll be having at this and coming Insight Forums,” he said.
The senator compared the discussion around AI to calls that inspired the military to set up the Manhattan Project, the World War II-era endeavor to create an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany did.
“While the technology is important, our greatest treasure are the people that choose to call this country home,” Rounds said.
“Not long ago, most of the companies represented in this room were startups, and many of them are run by people who chose to make America home. The magnitude of the technological shift we find ourselves in with AI has led to many calls to undertake a new Manhattan-like project.
“Ask yourself, would we have had a Manhattan Project if our country had not allowed Albert Einstein and other scientists to call America home?”
Musk did not answer questions and only waved at reporters when he walked into the cavernous Kennedy Caucus Room, where the all-day session is being held.
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, praised how members of Congress have handled the AI issue, and downplayed fears it could upheave millions of American jobs with automation.
“There always is changes in the labor market with technological revolutions. But I firmly believe there will be far more great new jobs than before,” Altman told reporters before entering the room. “I have been very impressed with our interactions with lawmakers. I know that our industry loves to dunk on them but we love to work on them, but I think they really do get this thing done.”
Fox Business’ Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report