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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A handful of superstar U.S. metro areas are leading the way in AI, while much of the rest of the country is at risk of being left behind.

Why it matters: AI can enhance productivity and growth in multiple sectors, but as a technology that tends to centralize around a handful of talent hubs, it could also increase regional economic disparity across the country.

What's happening: In a new report released today, researchers at the Brookings Institution assessed the geographic distribution of AI talent, investment and research around the U.S.

  • It shouldn't be surprising that the Bay Area — including both San Francisco and San Jose — was far and away the leader, accounting for one-quarter of AI conference papers, patents and companies.
  • Add in another 13 "early adopter" cities — including New York, Austin and Seattle — and these 15 metro areas account for two-thirds of the nation's AI assets and capabilities.

The other side: More than half of the 261 U.S. metro areas surveyed by Brookings exhibit no significant AI activities at all.

What they're saying: "AI is at the stage where it is highly dependent on a super-specific talent base, and there's also a heavy need for massive computing power," says Mark Muro, policy director at Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program and a co-author of the report.

  • "Those resources aren't available everywhere," he adds.

What to watch: Muro notes that many of the AI early adopters benefited from federal investments in R&D that could potentially be spread more evenly around the country.

  • The report finds nearly 90 additional metro areas could be potential future centers of AI growth, especially if they can attract investment from global and national tech leaders.

The bottom line: "The winner-takes-all dynamics of AI are strong," notes Muro — and pushing against them won't be easy.

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2021 - Technology

Sen. Kelly: U.S. must develop new military tech to prevent future conflicts

Developing new military technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be necessary to prevent a war with China or other adversaries, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said at an Axios event Friday.

Why it matters: With the war on terror ramping down and competition with China increasing, Kelly said it's time for the U.S. to adapt its military technology to address threats in the western Pacific, specifically China.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Oct 16, 2021 - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.

Updated Oct 15, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on advanced technologies and defense

On October 15th, Axios managing editor for politics Margaret Talev and future correspondent Bryan Walsh will discuss how technologies like AI and cloud computing are revolutionizing the military landscape, featuring Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Palantir Technologies Global Defense Lead Doug Philippone.

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