Marc Pfeiffer Warns of Policy Changes That Will Be Needed as AI is Adopted

Bloustein Local Government | News

On April 18, the 2024 NJ-GMIS Technology Education Conference (TEC) welcomed 150 Garden State municipal, county and school district IT professionals to the Palace at Somerset Park to learn about how technology could make their jobs easier. The conference was sponsored by the New Jersey branch of Government Management Information Sciences (NJ-GMIS).

Keynoting the conference was Giani Cano, an expert in mentalism, who spoke about unlocking the power of focus to enhance decision-making. The participants were also able to talk to vendors who demonstrated their software at the show. attended a session called “The Implications of AI within Local Government and Educational Institutions,” in which three speakers discussed their experiences with AI in the workplace and gave advice on how NJ-GMIS members could incorporate AI into their processes.

The last to speak was Marc Pfeiffer, senior policy fellow and faculty researcher, Center for Urban Policy Research, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers–New Brunswick, who also had a 37-year career in New Jersey local government. Pfeiffer spoke about the policymaking implications of adopting AI tools and infrastructure.

“AI is going to drag our management-focused IT administrators more and more into the world of public policy,” Pfeiffer told the group. “It’s an area you may not have had any training or education in, but it’s an area you are going to have to learn about.

“I want you to walk out of here with an understanding that this is something that is in your world now. Management is going to find that technology management and public policy are going to overlap,” he said.

It’s not just chatbots anymore. It’s machine learning and natural language processing. It’s neural networking. All of these technologies are coming together. AI includes robotic processes; business process automation; and computer vision, which is the ability to use cameras to see, translate what has been learned, and act on it.

“So, when it sees a mugging going on in a parking lot, you don’t need a police officer who’s watching maybe 300 cameras in that town to see what’s going on. They’ll be getting an alert because the AI has been trained to use that type of human behavior to give an alert, so they can dispatch quickly.”

“And then the newest one is ‘digital twins,’ which take in environments such as a traffic system, a water-treatment system, a wastewater-processing system, and sees all of the components of that digitally. So, you can model what happens when something goes wrong.” AI will be integrated into most digital-technology goods and services in three to five years, if not sooner, he predicted.

“When we talk about public policies, we are talking about the things that set a strategic direction, working within legal frameworks and the priorities for the government,” he said.

One example is the idea that you don’t have personal privacy when you are using your employer’s or a school system’s devices. That’s a policy decision. “But there are also decisions about how that is administered, and we have to figure out how to administer these better.”

Take the example of surveillance cameras in a public park or other public areas. “These are some of the public policy questions: How are they monitored? By AI or humans? How are incidents tagged and responded to? Any police department that just takes their facial ID match has a problem. Arresting a person based on that is wrong. And you’ll need to do a human identification on top of it because AI alone has been getting stuff wrong. It’s going get better, but you’ve got to do something to get human judgment in there.”

There are other implications, Pfeiffer said. For instance, under what circumstances is a public recording made available? And to whom? Think about the requests submitted under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act, and the exceptions to that policy. When videos are made available, the people who get them can put them on the internet. “We need new public policy because we haven’t thought about the value issues, personal security, crime prevention and public safety implications. You must deal with these policy issues in the next few years, as AI becomes more prevalent,” he said.

Pfeiffer’s talk stirred up many more questions in the audience, as members considered all the changes that AI will bring to their municipal and school IT practices in the future.

NJ Tech Weekly, July 9, 2024