Bots in Congress: The Risks and Benefits of Emerging AI Tools in the Legislative Branch
This piece was originally published in Tech Policy Press.
In the last year, we’ve seen huge improvements in the quality and range of generative AI tools—including voice-to-text applications like OpenAI’s Whisper, text-to-voice generators like Murf, text-to-image models like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and GPT-3, and others. Unlike the clunky AI tools of the past (sorry, Clippy), this suite of technologies is increasingly able to replicate and outpace work done by humans.
Already, legislators are experimenting with these tools to augment their work. In January, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA.) penned an op-ed in the New York Times with the help of an AI, and subsequently introduced an AI-drafted bill. Around the same time, Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) read an AI generated speech on the House floor. While these examples may feel gimmicky and attention-seeking, AI tools will soon bring real disruptive innovation to legislatures—entailing substantial benefits as well as risks.
In the past, new technologies have repeatedly transformed the institution of Congress—and the American people’s relationship with it. Many of these transformative technologies were communications tools: the telegraph, the telephone, broadcast television, email, and social media. But other innovations had just as significant an effect. New modes of transportation like trains and air travel changed how much time members spent in their districts, and air conditioning allowed for more work to be done during DC’s hot summer months.