Bill Maher Says Artificial Intelligence Should Be a Bigger Concern Than TikTok

Amid the U.S. House passing a bill this week that would ban TikTok, Bill Maher wasted no time Friday sharing his thoughts on the controversial matter.

To kick off the latest episode of HBO’s Real Time, the host joked during his monologue, “China, you know what, you can manufacture everything else that we use, but keeping our kids stupid, that’s our job.”

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The bill, which passed by a vote of 352-65 in the House, would lead to a nationwide ban of the popular video app if its China-based owner, ByteDance, doesn’t sell it. Lawmakers have expressed concerns that the company’s current ownership structure is a national security threat. President Joe Biden has said if Congress passes the measure, he will sign it, however, the bill has to pass the Senate first.

Later on Real Time, during his discussion with Republican Rep. Nancy Mace and Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, Maher brought up the topic again, saying he feels like there are larger issues in the country at the moment than TikTok.

He also pointed out how members of Congress “pretty overwhelmingly” voted to pass the bill, yet some politicians like Mace, Khanna, Donald Trump, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — who are all on different sides of the political aisle — have expressed opposition to it.

“Explain to me why the people who are lining up against the bill and against getting it signed, you know, are saying, ‘No, we can keep TikTok Chinese.’ What is the common ground there?” Maher asked.

“The common ground is the First Amendment in free speech,” Khanna responded. “I mean, it shows how out of touch Congress is that of all the issues in the country, the thing we can get done in three days is ban TikTok. That is the issue?”

He added that Congress should instead be looking at passing a “data privacy law.”

Mace also chimed in, noting, “It’s a First Amendment issue. I think it’s potentially a Fifth Amendment issue. It’s not the government’s role to ban apps from the app store and websites.”

While Maher agreed that he’s also a “free speech person,” he later expressed there’s a bigger issue that should be the focus in Congress, and that’s artificial intelligence.

“I’m so much more concerned about AI,” the host said. “I mean, I heard you [Khanna] say this week that you think the first trillionaire in this country is going to be an AI entrepreneur. That to me is scarier than any of this, the idea of a trillionaire and also coming from AI. And by the way, the U.S. State Department said this week, worst case scenario, it [AI] poses an extinction-level threat to the human species.”

Maher continued, “You know, we see all these glitches in it and it doesn’t pause us at all. It’s like an arms race and we’re the guinea pigs. And shouldn’t the tech bros have been made to work out the bugs before they unleashed it on humanity? A little bit?”

Protections around the use of Artificial intelligence also emerged as a major sticking point in the writers and actors strikes last year. It has also been a hot-button issue among other industries, as well as Hollywood, about the threat it poses to jobs.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was also a guest on Real Time Friday during the one-on-one interview.

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