Boston Isn’t Afraid of Generative AI

Article by Beth Simone Noveck: “After ChatGPT burst on the scene last November, some government officials raced to prohibit its use. Italy banned the chatbot. New York City, Los Angeles Unified, Seattle, and Baltimore School Districts either banned or blocked access to generative AI tools, fearing that ChatGPT, Bard, and other content generation sites could tempt students to cheat on assignments, induce rampant plagiarism, and impede critical thinking. This week, US Congress heard testimony from Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and AI researcher Gary Marcus as it weighed whether and how to regulate the technology.

In a rapid about-face, however, a few governments are now embracing a less fearful and more hands-on approach to AI. New York City Schools chancellor David Banks announced yesterday that NYC is reversing its ban because “the knee jerk fear and risk overlooked the potential of generative AI to support students and teachers, as well as the reality that our students are participating in and will work in a world where understanding generative AI is crucial.” And yesterday, City of Boston chief information officer Santiago Garces sent guidelines to every city official encouraging them to start using generative AI “to understand their potential.” The city also turned on use of Google Bard as part of the City of Boston’s enterprise-wide use of Google Workspace so that all public servants have access.

The “responsible experimentation approach” adopted in Boston—the first policy of its kind in the US—could, if used as a blueprint, revolutionize the public sector’s use of AI across the country and cause a sea change in how governments at every level approach AI. By promoting greater exploration of how AI can be used to improve government effectiveness and efficiency, and by focusing on how to use AI for governance instead of only how to govern AI, the Boston approach might help to reduce alarmism and focus attention on how to use AI for social good…(More)”.