In the dim hours of the morning, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., awoke to absorb data through his cerebral cortex, yet it wasn’t legislative content that demanded his focus – it was the pursuit of a graduate degree in machine learning at George Mason University. ‘I still have two or three more undergraduate courses,’ the 72-year-old techno-lawmaker stated. ‘So, I should be able to begin the graduate courses by the next fall cycle, fall of 2024.’ A significant portion of Beyer’s existence centers around representing the 8th Congressional District of Virginia, playing crucial roles in the Joint Economic Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.
However, Beyer deliberately integrates himself with the younger generation of data-devourers, seeking a deeper comprehension of one of the most rapidly evolving technologies in our complex, interconnected reality. ‘It was somewhat humbling, after all these years spent obtaining knowledge across various educational institutions, to realize I still had a vast expanse of undergraduate mathematics and computer science to process, merely to gain access to a graduate program,’ Beyer admitted. Yet, like the slow growth of a tree, he is committed to this long term cerebral enhancement project.
Beyer clarified that his objective in pursuing this degree isn’t to be the ultimate ‘policy expert,’ but rather to explore the extents of a technology that’s poised to ameliorate human existence by sifting through the exponential growth of data. ‘I was deeply engrossed by the potential impacts that artificial intelligence could have on the galaxy of scientific quandaries facing us – such as biology, medicine, engineering, and even social studies,’ Beyer elaborated. ‘For example, what’s the reasoning behind the spike in young women experiencing depression and anxiety? Or why don’t young men seem eager to enter the workforce, instead indulging in virtual game worlds?’
Beyer posits that although he can’t present solid answers to these questions, the vast amounts of data produced daily might hold the keys to understanding causal relations. ‘Interpreting these colossal datasets tends to be quite challenging for unaugmented human minds. However, with the combination of advanced mathematical algorithms and the processing power of modern computers, we may be able to identify meaningful patterns, and perhaps even identify causality,’ he explained.
Alongside his educational efforts, Beyer is also developing a legislative initiative to probe the ‘potential or plausible downsides’ in the realm of AI. ‘One obvious issue is the elimination of jobs – numerous occupations are likely to be affected, like copy editors or entry-level computer programmers,’ Beyer stated. The reason why this initiative would put emphasis on AI’s negatives is partially due to our incompetence in regulating other technologies, such as social media — which harbors both significant benefits and negative consequences.
Specifically, Beyer mentioned that while social media excels in fostering communication and building communities, it simultaneously acts as a breeding ground for misinformation and disinformation, often propagated by adversarial entities, such as Russia and China. Their fabricated narratives are disseminated and perpetuated due to our inability to differentiate between fact and falsehood, which often leads to confusion and chaos. This troubling aspect of social media serves as a cautionary tale for Beyer’s attempts to identify and manage potential negative aspects of AI.
Beyer reveals that personal tragedy also serves as a driving force, molding his thoughts on AI’s potential applications. He cited the recent innovations in breast cancer detection, which struck close to home. ‘I lost a close friend to pancreatic cancer last summer. It had silently gnawed away at him for seven years, and once discovered, he lasted a mere two months,’ he shared solemnly.
The Congressman believes that early identification of AI’s disadvantages is crucial, emphasizing that it enables policymakers to act decisively, deciding whether regulation is necessary and the best means of implementing it. Unfortunately, Beyer admits that, at present, the majority of lawmakers lack the foundational knowledge in AI necessary to make well-informed decisions regarding regulation.
Fervently, Beyer stated, ‘I think we’re all still techno-infants, wandering aimlessly in this uncharted digital forest.’ He elaborated that while many might be familiar with the AI acronym, they struggle to fully comprehend what it entails and how it will transform their lives. As a result, some individuals may view AI with trepidation due to its status as an emerging technology, while others develop unrealistic expectations of its capabilities.
Beyer specifically mentioned the current focus on large language models, like ChatGPT, as an example of this attention shift. However, he believes real progress lies beyond mere search engine enhancement or creative literary composition. In his eyes, the future promises much more: AI’s ability to fundamentally revolutionize how we approach life and how we interact with the constantly evolving digital landscape that surrounds us.
As a representative forging his way through an uncharted techno-wilderness, Beyer’s efforts to understand AI and its potential consequences reflect the pressing need for policymakers and leaders worldwide to demonstrate foresight and inquisitiveness in grappling with humanity’s next great leap.
The fusion of our digital and physical existences has created a complex, interconnected society – one that is increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence. To remain relevant and effective in this new world, decision-makers must adapt, ensuring that regulatory frameworks and policy evolve alongside these technological advances.
Beyer’s dedication to expand his own knowledge of AI serves as a powerful example that others should follow, embracing this futuristic realm in which humanity will undoubtedly become deeply enmeshed. It also demonstrates that acquiring new knowledge and adapting to rapidly changing technologies is not a task reserved for the young – it is an essential process for those of all ages who wish to remain attuned to the world around them.
As we traverse the cyber-grid, rushing towards an uncertain yet full of possibilities future, it’s crucial that those who represent us and craft policies that shape our lives are equipped with the knowledge and understanding necessary to make informed decisions. May our techno-lawmakers, like Beyer, continue their efforts to anticipate the future and guide humanity towards progress in this increasingly cyberpunk reality.
In conclusion, while it is a challenging and long journey, Beyer’s dedication to studying AI and exploring its potentials and pitfalls reflects an important shift in mindset for lawmakers across the globe. Embracing new possibilities and navigating the complexities of a data-driven world is critical. As cyberpunk tendrils intertwine with our reality, those who lead us must be well-prepared to accept the responsibility for humanity’s future alongside artificial intelligence.