If you liked “Zuck Bucks”— in which Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg’s $400 million donations to politically-minded outfits almost certainly tilted the 2020 election — you’re going to love “Moskowitz Money,” which is going to a slyer purpose with perhaps even more profound effect: shaping public policy on artificial intelligence (AI).
Dustin Moskowitz is a lesser-known Facebook co-founder, with $12 or so billion dollars of his own, of which he was given tens of millions to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Millions more of his money has gone to the Horizon Institute for Public Service, which has placed its people in the high councils of Washington, D.C.
So let’s step back and consider: A progressive Silicon Valley mogul funds people to work on AI policy in DC. What could go wrong? Nothing, if you’re a Tech Lord, or a Democratic recipient of Moskowitz largesse. Everything, if you’re anyone else.
AI is going to be a big deal. For good? For ill? Probably more for the good, but the bad could be so bad — think Skynet in the “Terminator” movies —that we need to be on our guard.
So with caution in mind, let’s consider our vulnerability as described in this Oct. 13 headline in Politico: “How a billionaire-backed network of AI advisers took over Washington.” Those last words, from a serious-minded publication, are worth pausing over: took over Washington.
About the Horizon fellowships, the article continues, “An organization backed by Silicon Valley billionaires and tied to leading artificial intelligence firms is funding the salaries of more than a dozen AI fellows in key congressional offices, across federal agencies and at influential think tanks.”
In fact, Horizon has funded at least 34 fellows, neatly arranged into “tracks,” one for the Executive Branch, one for the Legislative Branch, and one for think tanks. All that personnel will make for some fast-spinning revolving doors in the future, just as has been the case in the past, when, most notably, the Obama administration spun tightly with Big Tech.
Without a doubt, there are huge issues with AI, including the fact that few outside of tech understand it. But we’ve confronted this knowledge-gap problem before, and mastered it. For instance, the atomic bomb was new and scary back in 1945, even as it helped the U.S. end World War Two without a bloody years-long quagmire in Japan.
But after the war, happily and wisely, Congress asserted civilian control and constitutional accountability; first with the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, and then with the National Security Act of 1947. As a result, eight decades later, the atom is a boon, not a bane.
So what’s needed now for AI are hearings, oversight, checks and balances, just as James Madison would have wanted. Yet as this author pointed out just last month, the Biden administration has been bypassing Congress on AI policy.
No branch of the federal government ought to be able to ignore another. And now we can see that there’s a new “branch,” Silicon Valley, helping to finance AI policymaking.
For starters, all the gains that the right has made against media bias could be washed away, like tears in rain. And after that, the potential for Blue-on-Red mayhem is as infinite as AI itself.
In the long run, as a matter of economic and cultural self-defense, Red America is going to need its own version of AI.
But for now, the main mission is to hammer out a fair and balanced, constitutional, AI policy. And that means a policy that isn’t bought and paid for by Big Blue Tech.
James P. Pinkerton, a former White House domestic policy aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and is a former Fox News contributor.
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