Illustration by TIME; reference image courtesy of Sneha Revanur

Earlier this year, Sneha Revanur began to notice a new trend among her friends: “In the same way that Google has become a commonly accepted verb, ChatGPT just entered our daily vocabulary.” A freshman in college at the time, she noticed that—whether drafting an email to a professor or penning a breakup text—her peers seemed to be using the chatbot for just about everything.

That Gen Z (typically defined as those born between 1997 and 2012) was so quick to adopt generative AI tools was no surprise to Revanur, who at 18 is of a generation that’s been immersed in technology “since day one.” It only makes sense that they also have a say in regulating it.

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Revanur’s interest in AI regulation began in 2020, when she founded Encode Justice, a youth-led, AI-focused civil-society group, to mobilize younger generations in her home state of California against Proposition 25, a ballot measure that aimed to replace cash bail with a risk-based algorithm. After the initiative was defeated, the group kept on, focusing on educating and mobilizing peers around AI policy advocacy. The movement now counts 800 young members in 30 countries around the world, and has drawn comparisons to the youth-led climate and gun-control movements that preceded it.

“It’s our generation that’s going to inherit the impacts of the technology that [developers] are hurtling to build at breakneck speed today,” she says, calling the federal government’s inertia on reining in social media giants a warning sign on AI. “It took decades for [lawmakers] to actually begin to take action and seriously consider regulating social media, even after the impacts on youth and on all of our communities had been well documented by that point in time.”

At the urging of many in the AI industry, Washington appears to be moving fast this time. This summer, Revanur helped organize an open letter urging congressional leaders and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to include more young people on AI oversight and advisory boards. Soon after, she was invited to attend a roundtable discussion on AI hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris. “For the first time, young people were being treated as the critical stakeholders that we are when it comes to regulating AI and really understanding its impacts on society,” Revanur says. “We are the next generation of users, consumers, advocates, and developers, and we deserve a seat at the table.”

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