Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee had invited the clinical psychologist and bestselling author to provide his insights about the rise of AI and related threats to liberty. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who was serving as the body’s senior Republican in the absence of ranking member Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), said during his opening statement that Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) had refused to allow Peterson to appear virtually.
“For whatever reason, even though we have the technology here, the chairman said he couldn’t make it possible for him to appear remotely. Behind the scenes, over the weekend, there were other reasons supplied,” Johnson commented. “That was all a ruse. It was a pretext for not allowing Dr. Peterson to testify, and I really cannot guess why. Some kind of ideological reason.”
Johnson also remarked that “this is an action that is beyond unfortunate and something we cannot condone, which is why no Republicans will attend this hearing.” He exited the room after a tense exchange with Peters, who claimed that the Democrats blocked Peterson because Republicans had submitted him as a witness two business days before the hearing. Johnson noted that lawmakers frequently added witnesses at the last moment and made efforts to accommodate them during his six years as chairman.
Peterson said on social media that he had “worked in good faith and in an entirely non-partisan manner” before Democrats revoked his invitation. He added that he was rejected from offering his insights because a Democratic staffer accused him of “promoting child abuse.”
“I was also invited to present virtually and agreed,” Peterson continued, asserting that the idea his testimony was rejected merely because he would attend remotely “is an outright falsehood.”
Peterson has frequently been the subject of Left-wing censorship. Beyond the protests and outrage that accompany his speaking events, the academic was banned from Twitter for several months over a post about Elliot Page, a woman actress who identifies as a man. Twitter CEO Elon Musk restored Peterson’s account after taking over the platform.
Johnson also lauded Peterson’s qualifications to discuss AI and to seriously consider the technology’s implications. He spent much of his opening statement sharing comments Peterson was not able to offer himself.
“Our legal structure has not been able to adapt itself to the immense changes on the virtual front,” Peterson had written. “The logical extension of such danger is the duplication in the West of something approximating the utter catastrophe of the so-called social credit system in China. Everything is tracked and controlled, the government can with the stroke of a pen seize the economic resources of any given individual or group.”
Peterson likewise noted that AI and machine learning can aid in surveillance, observing that China currently has some 400 cameras watching every 1,000 people. “We could well be entering an era of authoritarian, AI-mediated social shunning. The use of such cameras should be banned,” Peterson’s remarks read. “Machines should never be given the authority to ticket, try, punish, or limit the economic or practical activities of human beings.”