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By Calan Ibrahim

On March 26th, Bloomberg L.P. co-founder and Binghamton Alum Tom Secunda pledged to donate 5 million dollars to Binghamton University to help “to attract, recruit and retain tech talent, creating a pipeline for students to participate in the artificial intelligence economy of the future.” This is all in line and contingent on the passing of Governor Hochul’s Empire AI Initiative in the 2025 NY state budget. 

According to the governor’s website, “(Empire AI) will create and launch a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence computing center in Upstate New York to be used by New York’s leading institutions to promote responsible research and development, create jobs, and unlock AI opportunities focused on public good.” This will be done via a consortium of public and private actors, including New York’s top public research institutions and private ones such as The Simons Foundation, a private community of scientists who intend to advance research through computational methods. 

Hochul intends the program to bridge the gap between large technology companies, who currently control a fair share of the capital in AI development, and the smaller private operations such as public-interest groups, researchers, and small companies who are currently being left for scraps. All of this will be funded by over 400 million dollars in private and public investment. This includes $275 million from the state in grants and other funding plus $125 million through private contributions, such as Mr. Secunda’s. 

Secunda’s donation would bolster Binghamton’s already robust AI research and development which vary from protecting power systems from malicious attacks or developing a robotic seeing-eye dog for the blind. According to State Senator Webb, another Bing Alum, this would “help Binghamton University build a pipeline for students to participate in artificial intelligence and bolster economic development and job creation in the Southern Tier.” The senator’s comments about economic development are indicative of the wider intention of Hochul’s program which, in addition to evening the playing field in AI development, intends to attract companies such as Micron and TTM Technologies to make New York a hub for semiconductor research and manufacturing. Upstate New York used to be a hub for industry and tech with companies such as Kodak in Rochester or IBM close by in Endicott. Due to a multitude of reasons such as a transforming fossil fuel-based economy and poor policy decisions that incentivized many businesses to congregate in larger urban centers, these efforts are especially important in the precarious times we face with China threatening the majority of global semiconductor production with their hostile behavior towards Taiwan and the efforts of the Biden administration to address a potential recession amidst the widening wealth divide in this country. 

Along with all of this, Hochul ordered the Office of Information Technology Services to create a novel AI Policy to be followed by this consortium. Reading through the policy, Hochul’s efforts are incredibly noble in ensuring that while she does not want to go full Luddite and shun the technology entirely, she intends any use of AI to be monitored by a human body that will make any final decisions when it’s used, and constantly adapt their policies to keep up with the ever-increasing speed at which the technology develops. These guidelines cover all fields from data privacy to copyright infringement through generative art. 

I believe Hochul’s program is the perfect amount of government intervention in an emerging field such as this. She intends to get her foot in the door to ensure people like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk don’t set the precedent for the development of this technology. Now, please do not conflate that last sentence with me wanting the development of this technology to be an exclusive big-brother-esque government monopoly. Clearly, her program intends to leave space for innovation from ALL sectors of the market. While I wouldn’t consider myself a blue-haired glue-sniffing socialist when it comes to the federal government’s role in the economy, it is absolutely important that the state act as nothing more than a simple mediator to ensure that the antitrust ghost of Teddy Roosevelt doesn’t damn us to Hell for pretending that entirely trusting the development of this technology with an ego-driven shitposter and a potential lizard is really the way for a bright, holistic, future.

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