May 2, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: Big Apple's AI optimism

New City Subway station, with sign indicating A and I lines to the right.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

New York City's business leaders are all in on AI, according to a new report from Accenture.

Why it matters: While far behind the Bay Area as a center for AI innovation and venture capital funding, New York City is home to more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else, making it a critical venue for AI adoption.

The big picture: New York city and state leaders are pushing for AI infrastructure, skills and regulations to form the foundation of efforts to reinvent the local economy.

Context: New York City in 2023 became the first U.S. city to adopt a detailed AI strategy.

What they did: Accenture surveyed 500 C-level executives in NYC across 20 industries, and estimated generative AI's impact across the NYC metro area and New York state economy.

  • The report and survey were commissioned in cooperation with Tech:NYC, an industry group.

What they found: 97% of executives surveyed believe AI will have "net positive impact" on society, and 87% believe NYC residents are "very familiar" with AI's benefits.

  • Executives believe the rise of AI skills will drive a trend of skill-based hiring — a counterweight to hiring based on educational pedigree.

By the numbers: Accenture concluded that 63% of hours worked in New York City could be "automated or augmented by generative AI," compared to 44% of hours worked across the United States.

  • Financial services industries topped the list: Around 70% of hours worked could be affected by AI.

Case in point: NYC-headquartered JPMorgan Chase is the global leader in AI financial services.

The intrigue: Accenture modeled three different approaches to AI development: aggressive, cautious, and a middle labeled as "people-centric."

  • The "people-centric" approach (defined as an innovation focused on "augmenting work" rather than "cost saving") was predicted to deliver the most economic value: a $320 billion increase in New York state annual GDP by 2038.

Friction point: Executives could not agree on what government incentives would be most useful for AI development, but they think city leaders should support collaborations between "academic institutions, companies and talent," per Accenture.

Reality check: While 80% of local executives surveyed viewed NYC as "the world's leading city in AI," the city is outranked by the Bay Area on virtually every metric — including the Bay being home to 30 of the leading 50 AI startups, compared to just five in NYC.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect that Forbes says the Bay Area is home to 30 (not 35) and NYC is home to 5 (not 4) of the 50 AI startups.

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