Dec 13, 2023 - News

Massachusetts' AI gameplan takes shape

Photo illustration of Yvonne Hao with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Steph Solis/Axios.

For months, Yvonne Hao has planted the seeds of Massachusetts' AI strategy.

Why it matters: Hao wants to make Boston, currently one of six cities where many generative AI jobs are concentrated, the nation's premiere AI hub, and the new year could bring tangible progress toward that goal.

What's happening: After months of talking with entrepreneurs at conferences, accelerator launches and other tech events, the state's economic development secretary is tapping industry leaders to help develop the Massachusetts' AI policies.

The latest: Hao and Jason Snyder, the technology services and security secretary, are leading an advisory council in 2024 to make recommendations on how the state can support AI adoption.

  • That could range from regulating AI in government operations to supporting efforts to harness the technology in the life sciences, health tech and financial services sectors.
  • The council's work will culminate with an AI convention next summer, per the state economic development plan filed last week.

What they're saying: "We have ethical, smart people who care deeply about curing disease and about fighting climate change," Hao, a former tech executive, told Axios in an interview.

  • "If anyone is going to be able to use AI as a force for good, it should be Massachusetts."

The big picture: AI is poised to transform our society just as the internet did in the 20th century, and government could fall behind if it waits too long to embrace the technology.

  • San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle are all vying with Boston to lead in the new industry's development.

Yes, but: So far, the use of AI has revealed racial and gender discrimination in the technology, among other flaws.

State of play: Few states have enacted AI-related laws, but many have introduced bills calling for studies, task forces or even listening sessions led by Congress, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

  • New York City passed a law earlier this year banning companies who use AI in hiring from discriminating based on race or gender, which was criticized as unenforceable.

What's next: The House and Senate have until the end of July to enact a bill this session based on Gov. Maura Healey's economic development plan, but the Healey administration isn't waiting until then to convene the advisory council.

  • Hao said the advisors will be announced early next year, but that they include industry leaders, as well as Boston and state officials.
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