Researcher calls for Aurora artificial intelligence plan

This Christmas, one could put a little artificial intelligence on the gift list.

For around $700, one can purchase a unit small enough to wear like a pin that can record video, talk back to you and even do real-time language translation.

Jim Schweizer described it as “Siri on steroids,” invoking the trademark Apple Inc. helper.

“It’s not some science fiction thing,” he said.

Schweizer, lead artificial intelligence researcher for Aurora-based Global Data Sciences Inc., used the information to illustrate that artificial intelligence, or AI, is not something way off in the future. It’s already here.

“A lot of people are scared of it,” he said. “But whether we like it or not, it’s here, and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

To that end, Schweizer recently held an Artificial Intelligence Summit at the Aurora Public Library, designed to both inform people about AI and get a conversation going about its practical application in Aurora.

The former Aurora Preservation Commission member is active with several local non-profits, and is currently working on AI visualization and interactive tools for his company.

Global Data Sciences Inc. provides scientific, data-focused approaches to developing and executing strategies for companies.

As part of the event, he called on the city of Aurora to develop an AI action plan, similar to what New York City unveiled in October. As far as Schweizer and anyone else could tell, New York is the only city to have such a plan so far, although it’s impossible to say how many might be in the works.

“The city of Aurora needs an action plan, and citizens need to have input,” Schweizer said. “If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there?”

The New York plan, produced by the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation. involved some 50 city employees from 18 agencies, as well as the insights of industry, academia and civil society, according to the plan itself.

The plan calls for seven broad-based initiatives, including calling for a governance framework, such as an AI Steering Committee; establishing principles and guidelines; pursuing monitoring of AI tools; having an external advisory network; sharing information to other governments; fostering public engagement; building AI knowledge and skills in city government; and reporting yearly on the city’s progress.

Broadly defined, AI describes a wide variety of technologies that use data to make predictions, inferences, recommendations, rankings or other decisions, according to the New York plan.

“While AI technologies have recently captured the public imagination by producing images and text on command, the reality is that they have existed for decades in diverse forms and uses,” the plan adds.

Such technologies include tools that filter spam from email, support medical care and optimize the use of energy in homes and workplaces.

“We tend to think of AI as a thing, but it’s not,” Schweizer said. “It’s just a computational way of writing things out. There are a lot of different kinds.”

Schweizer noted that many of the abuses or pitfalls of AI are real, which is why validation and verification is necessary with any AI product.

AI tools can be helpful in organizing and summarizing the vast number of data sets currently being used and accumulated daily. It could help a city, for instance, fill Freedom of Information requests for information that are too unwieldy to do right now.

“AI is a hammer,” Schweizer said. “I can bring that hammer and smash a window. Or I can build something with it.”

Schweizer said he hopes to hold another AI summit in January.

[email protected]