Larry Summers Says Halting AI Would Be To 'Cede Field To Potential Adversaries' Of US, But Sees Need For Strong Regulation To Ensure Safe Use

Benzinga – by Shanthi Rexaline, Benzinga Editor.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, on Friday, weighed in on presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump’s tariff proposals and on artificial intelligence technology.

Change All Around?

In an interview with Bloomberg, Summers discussed whether significant changes were happening across the board, particularly in areas such as climate, geopolitics, and the global economy. The economist said the current generation has seen much less change compared to the generation his grandmother lived through, specifically the period from 1900 to 1974.

“I have a suspicion that my granddaughter is going to witness history like my grandmother did,” he said.

More importantly, the economist foresees a significant shift with the advancements in artificial intelligence. He said the next generation will witness seismic change but cautioned about the pitfalls associated with such technology.

“The issue is going to be, can we manage it so we avoid the catastrophes?” he said.

Summers stated that AI can be transcendent because of its recursive nature, allowing it to improve itself. He added that this characteristic differentiates it from other technologies. He also raised the concern of last-mile problems that might hinder some users.

“As companies, as a society, we cannot leave war to generals and we cannot leave AI only to AI developers,” the economist said. “That’s why it’s absolutely essential that public authorities take a strong role here to make sure this technology is used for good.”

Despite these concerns, Summers stated that he does not support stopping or slowing down the technology.

“Any effort to stop this or to just slow it down for the sake of slowing it down without also thinking about its positive development would be to cede the field to the irresponsible, would be to cede the field to potential adversaries of the United States, would be to cede the field to those whose vision of AI might be as a tool of totalitarianism rather than as a tool of human emancipation,” he said.

Summers sits on the board of OpenAI, the Sam Altman-led company that kicked off the AI revolution in early 2023.

Not A Better Bet: Speaking about Trump’s tariffs, Summers said they are going to be levied against Canada and the U.S.’ traditional European allies.

If the former president plans to use tariffs as a tool of “power and intimidation,” they should be used much more selectively than he has proposed, Summers said. The economist also warned of other countries retaliating.

“When you launch attacks, then others respond and the whole thing can spiral,” he said.

Summers referred to the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariffs, which, according to him, contributed to the Great Depression. He also noted that countries that have seen tariffs as the “center of their economic strategy to make a nationalist point” have not seen much success with them.

Economists universally view that a country should not pursue systematic across-the-board tariffs for long periods of time, the ex-Treasury official said.

Read Next: Larry Summers Warns Donald Trump’s Fiscal Policy Could Inflict More Damage Than One That Precipitated Great Depression: ‘Prescription For The Mother Of All Stagflations’

Photo: Image: International Monetary Fund via Flickr

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