Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Ann Arbor Monday afternoon for a conversation at the Ford School of Public Policy with Shobita Parthasarathy, director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Programon the political considerations involved in the deployment of Smart cities and the growing prevalence of artificial intelligence.
De Blasio served as president of New York City 109th mayor of 2014 to 2021. During his tenure as mayor, de Blasio advocated that New York City reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic and has worked to provide free preschool in the city. De Blasio has also advocated for progressive policies like $15 minimum wage And affordable housing initiatives. After his 2020 presidential election runde Blasio moved from politics to school when he began teaching Harvard And New York University. De Blasio continues to be a influential important figure within the national Democratic Party.
In an interview with the Michigan Daily before the event, de Blasio spoke about the future of technology in the United States, which was the main topic of his discussion at the School of Public Policy on Monday. De Blasio told The Daily that he believes current policies on AI and technology are not representative of public opinion.
“Right now, big tech is setting the tone and the public is not part of that discussion,” de Blasio said. “There is no real democracy here. It is dangerous for our future.
President Joe Biden issued a decree Monday morning to increase and standardize the regulation of AI. The order requires that future AI technology be tested for possible public safety concerns and that the results of those tests be shared with the federal government. This order was taken in the 1950s Defense Production Act, which allows the president to expand federal power in the interest of national security.
De Blasio told attendees he was happy to see federal implementation of AI regulations, but would like to see more specific and broader AI legislation in the future.
“(The executive order) is a good start because having an executive order on AI is a major, major step,” de Blasio said. “When the President of the United States said that I am establishing a law, a structure, an order, I congratulated him… but what will the mechanism be? What will the consequences be? I haven’t seen so far in the executive order a clear illustration of the consequences, because I think something we can all say about American businesses is that if there are no consequences, good luck so that they comply with it.”
Biden’s executive order also aims to mitigate algorithmic bias and set standards for the use of AI in education, health care and criminal law. De Blasio told The Daily that he believes AI bias is a growing problem that will continue to get worse as the technology develops.
“Biases inhabit technology because technology is programmed by humans with biases,” de Blasio said. “And we really need to recognize that. I mean, basically what we’re seeing from big tech is just perpetuating our broken status quo and their attempts to fix it have been pretty weak and not too sincere.
De Blasio told The Daily that he believes community organizing and activism will be key to solving AI problems.
“The only way the world has been able to change is through grassroots activism and social movements,” de Blasio said. “I mean, you want to talk about civil rights, women’s rights, the environment, climate – the whole history of this country is underpinned by this notion that social movements, grassroots activism, people who spontaneously raise their voices, change the course of things. The political class alone rarely succeeds, but it can be pushed.”
During the presentation, de Blasio also detailed the potential impacts of increased automation on employment. He told attendees he would have liked to have done more to protect jobs during his term as mayor.
“I wish I had prioritized these issues more when I took office almost 10 years ago, because I see now how enormously this will affect our lives,” de Blasio said. “We need to start tackling this employment issue. We didn’t feel it much when I was mayor – the displacement in terms of employment – but we could see it on the horizon. I wish we had acted more aggressively then, but there is still time to do so.
De Blasio said he’s not sure whether creators of new technology consider potential future effects on other Americans when they launch AI projects and automated machines.
“Do I trust Silicon Valley executives to think about the Michigan truck driver and whether that person will have a livelihood once an autonomous vehicle takes over their routes? » De Blasio said. “I have no reason to believe that technology executives can even imagine what the life of a truck driver is like.”
Toward the end of the discussion, de Blasio told attendees that he was willing to participate in the political discourse around AI, even if he didn’t fully understand how the technology worked.
“I can’t explain the nuances of AI, but I definitely belong in the discussion because it’s going to affect me; that’s democracy,” de Blasio said. “If someone tells me that you don’t belong in this discussion, that you don’t belong in this room, that you don’t belong at this table, this is the table where I must be.”
In an interview after the event, public policy junior Audrey Melillo, who helped facilitate the discussion, told the Daily that the topics of de Blasio’s speech closely matched what she was learning in some of her classes at the School of Public Policy.
“What we are currently studying in my classes is different legislation that can be passed to help regulate and control the potential harms of AI in the workplace,” Melillo said. “So definitely directly related to what we’re talking about here.”
LSA freshman Alexander Richmond told the Daily he attended the event because he admired de Blasio’s previous work as mayor in the areas of urban technology. Richmond also said he hopes to see more young people engage in conversations around AI in the future.
“We have someone who has a pretty long track record of creating the building blocks for the path we’re going on and solving these key issues that I think tomorrow’s leaders need to address,” Richmond said. “I think it’s extremely important that those who come next are fully equipped to deal with these issues that will potentially affect tens of millions of people.”