Since OpenAI launched its chatbot in November 2022, it feels like we’ve entered a new era. Artificial intelligence is no longer just a sci-fi concept; it’s becoming a part of our everyday lives. AI-powered tools like ChatGPT have spread to various platforms, from search engines to virtual assistants. While the potential of AI is promising, there are concerns about its impact on professions, the creative work of artists and writers, and the spread of deceptive content.
Government officials are now grappling with the challenge of regulating AI to mitigate risks while harnessing its transformative potential to improve efficiency and quality of life. AI has already been used by state and local governments to complete tasks more effectively, such as data analysis, automation of bureaucratic processes, and quick response to public safety threats. The focus now isn’t just on how governments will regulate AI, but also on how they will utilize it.
Government bodies employ AI to prevent cyberattacks, detect public health threats, and identify potential offenders. However, there’s a debate about whether these efforts do more harm than good. Chatbots are also being used to interact with constituents and stakeholders, providing assistance and streamlining processes.
New York City is leading the way in using AI to benefit its residents. From preventing public health outbreaks to maintaining cyber resilience, the city leverages AI technologies. Mayor Eric Adams introduced an AI action plan that includes a chatbot to assist small-business owners in navigating city regulations. Other municipalities, like Altamonte Springs in Florida, are also embracing AI for site plan reviews and exploring its use in pedestrian safety, intersection operation, and first-responder dispatching.
The use of AI in schools has been a contentious topic. While concerns about plagiarism exist, the New York City public school system recognizes the potential benefits of AI in education. Teachers are using AI-powered tools in the classroom, and the city has partnered with Microsoft to pilot an AI teaching assistant. The Department of Education plans to create an AI policy lab and engage experts to ensure responsible and equitable AI integration in schools.
Law enforcement’s use of AI has raised alarm bells due to concerns about surveillance. The New York City Police Department’s “Digidog” robots and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s AI-powered surveillance have drawn criticism. Facial recognition technology used by police has also sparked protests and controversies in several jurisdictions.
In conclusion, AI has become a reality in our lives and in government operations. While there are risks and challenges, governments are working to strike a balance between regulation and harnessing the transformative potential of AI. It’s a complex journey, but one that governments must embark on to navigate the AI age.