January 25, 2023

Massachusetts lawmaker asked ChatGPT to write his floor speech

On Wednesday, Representative Jake Auchincloss will debut a new speechwriter: An algorithm.

The Newton Democrat is set to deliver a speech written by an artificial intelligence program, ChatGPT, the first time an AI-generated speech will be given on the House floor, according to his office. And a casual observer would never know the difference, based on a copy of the speech shared with The Globe.

Auchincloss will use the remarks to plug legislation he plans to introduce that would establish an artificial intelligence research center between the US and Israel, a bipartisan bill that he also introduced last Congress. But in turning to AI to write the speech, he’ll also be putting a spotlight on the explosion of potential — good and bad — in the increasing sophistication of the text generation platform.

“AI is going to be a feature of my life going forward,” Auchincloss said in an interview. “It could potentially be a general purpose technology in my children’s lives going forward, so I wanted to call attention to this technology and be part of the debate and deliberations about it in Congress.”

The text of the speech is brief and to the point, designed to fit into the one minute members are allowed for general purpose speeches. It begins with standard House decorum, “Madam Speaker, I stand here today because,” effectively adopting the language of congressional procedure. The speech describes the bill, makes a case for its importance, and uses standard political language throughout, an eery facsimile of a human-written version.

But Auchincloss said getting to that result wasn’t without trial and error.

“My speechwriter has nothing to worry about,” Auchincloss said. “It’s impressive, but this is not ready for prime time.”

The lawmaker said that the usable speech only came after four or five prompts that generated unusable material, either too verbose or oddly phrased, an illustration of how important the input into the AI is to the result. He also acknowledged making one edit to the text, to say he was planning to introduce the bill not introducing it that day, a concept he said he could not get ChatGPT to understand.

The prompt into the AI text generator that finally resulted in an acceptable speech was: “You are Jake Auchincloss, a Member of Congress. Write 100 words to deliver on the floor of the House of Representatives. Topic: the importance of the United States–Israel Artificial Intelligence Center Act, which the congressman will re-introduce this term.” He included a link to a press release and the bill text, and closed with: “Content goal: explain to audience the importance of international collaboration on AI research. Writing style: formal speech.”

Use of ChatGPT has exploded in recent months, including writing news stories and even mock biblical verse. The results have captivated and amused audiences, but also raised concerns about its implications for education and broader ethical and moral questions.

Auchincloss, who at 34 is one of the younger members of Congress, has a background in tech and is eager to see AI develop. But, he said, he also hopes to see discussion about how it should be regulated or guidelines before its use becomes more common, citing the rapid growth of social media and the current struggle to control its influence on our lives.

He also downplays any fears, for example, about AI taking over humans like in a science fiction novel.

“I think it’s really important that as we talk about this, to push back on the idea that it’s intelligence, because it’s not intelligence, it’s word prediction,” Auchincloss said. “I think if we ensure that it’s put in that context, we can have a richer conversation about how this tool can be better for amplifying creativity and for productivity, and also what ethical guidelines we need to put in place.”

By:  Tal Kopan
Source: The Boston Globe