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The Emerging Use of Generative AI in City Government

Release Date: 2024-04-23

Technology is changing how we navigate our everyday lives. Tools like Generative Artificial Intelligence or Generative AI are becoming more popular among various common job industries like entertainment, education, and even city government. Most people want to live in safe, dynamic, and enjoyable cities. The introduction of modern technology poses the question to government officials, “How do we implement the responsible and ethical use of technology in the city?” This digital revolution presents an opportunity for city government to dive into the world of innovation and welcome tools like Generative AI as an approach that can assist city staff in their jobs – rather than replace their jobs or make their skills obsolete.

What is Generative Artificial Intelligence? It is a new branch of AI technology commonly known as Generative AI with the ability to generate content requested by the user such as memos, emails, report summaries, outlines and more. It can also answer questions and deliver information to the user from immense amounts of datasets, known as large language models (LLMs). LLM-based applications like Chat GPT, Google Bard, and Co-Pilot to name a few are some of the top Generative AI tools out there at the moment. These language models use machine learning to adapt and learn how to complete wide range of tasks as specified by the user. However, the drawback and largest concern with these models are their inability to deliver human emotion and whether they introduce bias or ethical issues. The risk of dishonest responses and the spread of misinformation is a real concern that city governments need to address.

For many, tools like Generative AI can sound scary and dystopian, particularly because it’s emerging technology in uncharted territory. But like all new things, it requires some testing, responsible policies, and critical decision-making to better understand if the tool is a right fit for your needs. It can be seen as a choice, an option, or supplemental tool that gathers and analyses immense data sets to deliver results to the questions you’re asking. Cities are recognizing this opportunity and developing a responsible approach for the use of Generative AI while also recognizing the risks it poses in practice. Generative AI tools can help you identify and analyze trends from large data sets, write code in various programming languages, or draft a report you might need a little boost getting started with.

For example, a city employee could ask a system like Chat GPT, “Draft a memo to the city council on the issue of traffic collisions and more stop lights in downtown Long Beach. Include traffic collision data from 2020-2023.” This would generate a memo with the data and information the user asked for. The challenge is that it will require editing and verifying the information delivered by ChatGPT is accurate and make sense. Users cannot rely on Generative AI with unquestioning trust and should be used as a tool, not a flawless product.

Governments like the City of Long Beach are recognizing the popularity of Generative AI systems in the workplace and encourage the responsible use of it to support the work of city staff while also acknowledging we must not rely heavily on this type of technology. The City created an interim guidance to educate staff how to use it and inform about the risks around AI bias, data privacy, and cybersecurity. This level of information for employees helps protect community data and displays an effort to use tools like Generative AI responsibly and ethically. Using Generative AI is a choice and must be a responsible one. Our work with the Smart City Initiative communicates critical information to residents, staff, and partners about emerging technology and best practices to empower users to use critical thinking skills to evaluate technology and know when it’s best to use it and when not to. Our use of technology is developing and adapting every day. It is our duty to continue to learn and approach technology and innovation with curiosity—not fear. The urge to fear the unknown is inevitable but with the appropriate guidance, education, and collaboration, technology does not have to be scary and can be a partner in solving some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Definitions list

Generative AI: Generative AI (genAI) is a broad label describing any type of artificial intelligence (AI) that can produce new text, images, video, or audio clips. Technically, this type of AI learns patterns from training data and generates new, unique outputs with the same statistical properties.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that previously required human intelligence. Typically, such tasks involve perception, logical reasoning, decision-making, and natural language understanding (NLU).

Machine learning: Machine learning is a subset of AI that focuses on discriminative tasks. It involves the development of algorithms that enable computers to make predictions or decisions based on data without being explicitly programmed how to do so.

Large Language Models (LLM): Large language models are very large deep learning models that are pre-trained on vast amounts of data.

User: a person who uses or operates something, especially a computer or other machine.

Chat GPT/Open AI: ChatGPT is a chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched on November 30, 2022. Based on a large language model, it enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail, and language.

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