Lieu cautiously optimistic about AI, he tells officials – Easy Reader

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by Elka Worner

Congressman Ted Lieu cautioned local politicians that artificial intelligence can make local governments more efficient, but they need to be careful how they use the technology.

“As a member of Congress, my priority is the safety and well-being of my constituents and our nation,” he said. “As a recovering computer science major, I know that AI in the wrong hands could create serious risks.”

Lieu was the keynote speaker at the March 28 South Bay Cities Council of Governments Assembly in Carson. He joined other AI experts in addressing this year’s theme: “Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe for the South Bay?”

In February, the Congressman was appointed to co-chair a congressional bipartisan task force on AI. The state Department of Transportation is already exploring ways to use AI to reduce traffic and the county Department of Health Services is using the technology to combat homelessness, Lieu said. Still governments should be mindful of potential pitfalls of certain technologies, such as facial recognition, which federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies use in criminal investigations.

“The technology is less accurate for women and people of color and can be used in ways that violate Americans’ civil liberties,” Lieu said.

AI could assist cities with constituent outreach, payroll and even service schedules for public facilities. Lieu assuaged city officials and employees in the audience who feared they may soon be replaced by bots.

“We still need government employees to run government operations,” he said.

Lieu said elected officials – from President Biden to city councilmembers – have a “responsibility to respond to the rapidly developing technology” of AI and its potential impact on elections. He cited a scene in the movie “Forrest Gump” where the main character is standing next to President John F. Kennedy.

“You no longer need a movie studio to create these types of scenes,” Lieu said. “Anyone in the basement of their home could do that. So, you have a proliferation of billions of people who could launch deep fakes.”

Social media companies and other companies should do more to alert people that they are viewing AI-generated content, the Congressman said.

“It’s probably a good idea when you’re on social media and you receive videos and audio to be a little skeptical of what you’re seeing,” Lieu said.

Above all, he said, people shouldn’t be afraid of AI, but should become familiar with it.

Hermosa Beach Councilmember Rob Saemann, who attended the daylong event, said he tried to download ChatGPT, the popular artificial intelligence program, but was concerned about the personal information required to use it. “They wanted my email, birthdate, and I stopped right there,” he said.

Saemann said AI is a useful tool, like Google. “I don’t think it’s going to be that impactful in the immediate future,” he said.

Councilmember Dean Francois said he was impressed with Congressman Lieu’s understanding of AI. He said the technology could assist elected officials and residents research the mounds of information on civic issues.

“Having these tools available to us will ensure transparency,” Francois said. ER

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