Category: Past Events

Title: Senator Mark Warner Discusses AI and Democracy on the Hilltop

Author: Jane Wright
Date Published: November 3, 2023

On Thursday, November 2, students gathered at Old North for a talk with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) about artificial intelligence and its implications on our democracy. This event was held in partnership with the Tech and Public Policy Program at the McCourt School of Public Policy.

McCourt student Amelie D’Hers (MS-DSPP ‘25) from Georgetown’s Tech and Public Policy Program introduced Senator Warner and GU Politics Executive Director Mo Elleithee who moderated the conversation. Before jumping into the discussion, an AI-generated recording of Senator Warner was played to highlight the capabilities of artificial intelligence. 

Senator Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, started the conversation by highlighting that he has spent a lot of time working on AI and tech policy, but that the field keeps evolving and there is always more to learn. Warner emphasized the need for legislation that addresses the risks that artificial intelligence and expanding technologies pose to national security and privacy.

Warner says that he does not think Congress is doing enough in terms of tech policy, noting that in terms of threats to society, “public markets and public elections are probably the areas that scare me the most.”  Because of the overlapping implications for the economy and elections, Warner said he saw the opportunity for collaboration between Democrats and Republicans on passing legislation that addresses concerns about social media, AI and emerging technologies.

“We’re working on some legislation that would at least say you should have some indications on political advertising, if it’s been altered,” Warner said when asked about specific policies that address election concerns related to AI. Warner notes that many people agree that regulations are needed but it is challenging “when you actually have to put words on a page.”

When asked about national security, Senator Warner emphasized the importance of understanding AI and the wireless industry. “As Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I think national security is no longer tanks and guns and ships and planes. It’s the race around AI.”

Students then had the opportunity to ask the senator questions. A sophomore in the School of Foreign Service, asked Senator Warner for his thoughts on how artificial intelligence is threatening people’s jobs, as the growth of automation leaves workers behind. Warner noted that this is a tradeoff of advancement, but proposed the need for a human capital tax credit to incentivize investment in people.

Zoe Broderick (C’26), inquired about the role of AI in the military and the ethics of AI enhancements for soldiers. Warner responded that there “has to be some rules of engagement” and emphasized there are positive and negative sides to technology use in military settings.

McCourt Student Travis Thornton (MPM’25), brought up Senator Warner’s Safe Tech act and how to grapple with the balance of regulating free speech on social media and the algorithms that flag online speech. Warner says that watermarking manipulated material would at least be a step in the right direction.

Overall, Senator Warner was transparent in his concerns about the growing field of AI and the challenges of legislating the growing field; however, he remained optimistic about how technological advancements can be utilized for good.

This article was written by Jane Wright, a first-year graduate student in the McCourt School of Public Policy.


Watch full recording below.