US senator tells Pope Francis to slow his roll on AI regulation

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said there is more work for Congress to do before joining international obligations and regulations on AI

The United States is not ready to join a binding treaty proposed by Pope Francis to regulate artificial intelligence on a global scale, a top Senate Democrat says. 

On Thursday, Pope Francis issued a dire warning to world leaders that uninhibited and reckless development of AI "may pose a risk to our survival and endanger our common home." In remarks made in honor of the upcoming 57th annual World Day of Peace, the pope urged world leaders to sign a global treaty to guide the development of AI for the betterment of humanity. 

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Politico in a statement that Congress has much more work to do on AI regulation before lawmakers can commit to a global treaty. 

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Virginia Senator Mark Warner

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) delivers remarks during a Rules Committee hearing at the Russell Senate Office Building on November 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"There is more work to do at the national level before we can establish global obligations and restrictions on the use of AI," Warner said in a statement.

Congress has talked about AI regulation for years, but lawmakers remain far away from a concrete proposal to set up safeguards around the powerful technology. 

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Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican

Pope Francis during the general audience in the Paul VI Hall. Vatican City (Vatican), December 13th, 2023.  (Grzegorz Galazka/Archivio Grzegorz Galazka/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In September, the Senate hosted a bipartisan forum inviting tech leaders to brief lawmakers on the latest innovations in AI and the risks they might pose. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Meta's Mark Zuckerberg, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and others were among those who attended the closed-door forum.

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"The things we discussed were open AI, and the pros and cons of that, then health care — the amazing potential that AI could have in health care," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who moderated the forum, told reporters after the meeting. 

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An illustration with the OpenAI logo that says, "The AI revolution"

In this photo illustration, the logo of OpenAI is seen displayed on a mobile phone screen with The AI (artificial intelligence) revolution symbol in the background.  (Idrees Abbas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"We talked about election law and the need to do something fairly immediate, before the election. We talked about the displacement of workers, both the training of workers into the new AI jobs but also what we do about displaced workers who might lose their jobs or have diminished jobs," Schumer said. "We talked about who the regulators should be – lots of different decisions and questions about that. We talked about the need for immigration. We talked about transparency." 

While U.S. lawmakers remain in discussions about how to regulate AI, the European Union last week reached a deal that would establish the first set of comprehensive rules to regulate AI, which would become a model for the rest of the world to follow.

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Warner advocated for moderation as Congress develops its own AI rules.

"Congress and governments around the world have an obligation to ensure that innovation in AI happens responsibly with appropriate safeguards in place," he told Politico.