The city appears to be doubling down on its investments in artificial intelligence: It is now looking to hire its first director of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Alex Foard, who works in the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation, said the director will lead a small group and work with city agencies to figure out how AI could benefit New York City. The person will also work to educate the public.
“We want to make sure city agencies have the opportunity to leverage AI productively,” Foard said.
Other cities already have current or previous AI projects and initiatives.
In Los Angeles, predictive modeling has helped find who may become homeless, then a case worker steps in as a means of prevention.
In Seattle, AI uses crash data to identify problem intersections.
And in Chicago, police have tested an algorithm to predict who may be likely to commit violent crimes based on data compiled from arrests, shootings and gang affiliations.
“What we’re thinking about as a priority is the opportunity to really look at where AI and machine learning could add value to agencies day-to-day operations, and what practices and polices they should be considering to do that effectively,” Foard said.
Columbia University Professor Hod Lipson said the capacity for AI to do new things has shattered expectations and is opening up possibilities.
“It’s a sign of the times,” Lipson said.
The professor said it was only recently a breakthrough in AI happened, where machines could differentiate between objects.
“They can understand if it’s a human, a pedestrian, a cat, a dog, a motorcycle, a bicycle — machines can understand what they’re seeing, and that opens up a lot of new possibilities,” Lipson said.
But those possibilities raise concerns.
Elon Musk, an early investor in Open AI, has warned of AI becoming uncontrollable, and could become a threat to humanity, possibly leading to a global arms race, and increased risk of global conflict.
Despite the criticism, Mayor Eric Adams is exploring future AI uses and hiring a team to do so.
“It’s a unique opportunity right now to really focus on AI policy right now in the public sector. I think the private sector has done some work there, but we haven’t seen a lot of examples where governments have put forward policy and drive further guidance,” Foard said.