How the AI Economy is Shaping Cities

Like other technologies, artificial intelligence tech seems to be clustering in a small group of cities, prompting questions about its uneven deployment.

September 27, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Silicon Valley aerial view

Alexey Ulashchick / Shutterstock

Artificial intelligence, writes Richard Florida, "is predicted to have substantial economic impacts, adding as much as $15.7 trillion to global economic output by 2030." According to "a new Brookings Metro study that digs into the geography of AI at the metro level," AI "threatens to reinforce or magnify the same geographically uneven patterns of previous high-technology industries that are concentrated in leading tech hubs and superstar cities across the U.S."

The study finds that "just 10% of U.S. metropolitan areas — 36 of them — have a significant AI presence." The San Francisco Bay Area is "far and away the lone U.S. leader in AI." Thirteen other metro areas have "significant AI clusters, which the study calls early adopters." The study names "21 additional metro areas that have substantial research capability but limited commercialization," and a fourth group comprised of "87 metro areas that the study dubs 'potential adoption centers' with more moderate levels of AI activity." Beyond that, "the study finds very little, if any, significant AI capability in the lion’s share of U.S. metro areas, a staggering 260 of them in all." 

In a hopeful sign, "[s]everal metro areas saw significant increases in AI-related job postings in 2020, while the Bay Area saw a slight decline. It may well be the case that geographic shifts in AI technology, jobs or startups may not show up in data for several years." But for now, AI's growth mirrors that of other technologies, where "new technologies and industries grow up around a small number of dominant tech hubs."

According to Florida, "[f]ederal intervention will likely be required to counter and reshape the powerful trends at work in the geography of artificial intelligence." Otherwise, "[l]eft to its own devices, AI is just the latest technology that will serve to reinforce and exacerbate the winner-take-all nature of our economy and geography."

Wednesday, September 8, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

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