Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning , Next-Generation Technologies & Secure Development , Standards, Regulations & Compliance

NYC Mayor Adams Unveils AI 'Action Plan'

Adams Ridicules Worries About 'Terminator' While Touting AI Robocalls in Mandarin
NYC Mayor Adams Unveils AI 'Action Plan'
Image: Shutterstock

Techno-optimistic New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday unveiled a plan he says can convert the notoriously bureaucratic city administration into an AI powerhouse.

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AI presents a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to improve city services, the Democratic mayor said in a press conference in which he was careful to note the "potential pitfalls and associated risks these technologies present" even as he accentuated the positive.

The mayor's "action plan" calls for establishing a city AI steering committee, setting up guiding principles, providing preliminary use guidance on emerging tools, creating a typology of AI projects, and developing an AI risk assessment and project review process. The city reported that it had used 31 "algorithmic tools" during 2022.

Talking about AI can be fraught, Adams acknowledged. "People think all of a sudden you're going to have a 'Terminator'-type figure come in and take over government and displace human beings. That's just not the reality. Take a deep breath. Get a grip."

He said the city has trained AI to make robocalls in foreign languages that appear to have been recorded by Adams. "People stop me on the street all the time. They say, 'I didn't know you speak Mandarin,'" he said.

Underlining how little about AI is politically neutral, Adam's remarks drew quick condemnation from privacy advocates who called the AI robocalls "deeply Orwellian."

"The mayor is making deepfakes of himself,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of New York City-based Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.

Tech executives have said they would welcome rules clarifying permissible AI behavior, although their commitment to regulation can vary significantly past top-level agreement (see: OpenAI CEO Altman 'Blackmails' EU Over AI Regulation). The United States is far from enacting comprehensive national AI regulation, although the Biden administration is collecting tech company signatories to a slew of voluntary policy commitments that includes watermarking AI-developed audio and visual material so it can be detected as artificially made.

City officials announced a pilot of an AI tool dubbed MyCity Chatbot that was trained on data from the Department of Small Business Services. Adams told reporters the bot will make it easier to navigate the city's many regulations. Entrepreneurs will find answers "rather than scan through web page after web page, going into the black hole of uncertainty."

Although the city may roll out chatbots with wider knowledge and eventually have AI field basic calls to the city's 311 nonemergency city services line, the current iteration is restricted in scope. That chatbot couldn't name Adams's personally appointed "rat czar" - it's Kathleen Corradi - and responded with, "I don't have information on that" to the question "If I make it here, can I make it anywhere?"

About the Author

Rashmi Ramesh

Rashmi Ramesh

Assistant Editor, Global News Desk, ISMG

Ramesh has seven years of experience writing and editing stories on finance, enterprise and consumer technology, and diversity and inclusion. She has previously worked at formerly News Corp-owned TechCircle, business daily The Economic Times and The New Indian Express.

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