With all the fuss about AI displacing millions of workers, logic suggests that the AI field itself might be the best place to secure lasting career opportunities. However, the bulk of job offers are currently concentrated in just six AI “superstar” American cities.
Half of last year's generative AI job postings were published in just six AI-leader metro areas: San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Seattle, brookings.edu reports.
So far, generative AI activity is highly concentrated and dominated by Big Tech companies. This raises questions about the opportunity structure and geography of the AI revolution.
While the development of generative AI is expected to widen geographically, some fear that the dominance of the industry’s core hubs may harden even more. High concentration, especially in AI research and development, introduces inequality in economic opportunities and regional growth, and consumers get varied products and services.
Once new technologies mature, they tend to spread out geographically, bringing more comprehensive benefits. However, invention, development, and scale-up of disruptive technologies are usually geographically skewed, according to researchers.
“All of which suggests that if generative AI is to boost prosperity in more places around the country, it will likely require a degree of intentional investment – most notably, from the federal government – in new regions,” researchers at Brookings write.
Waves of tech innovation have significantly altered the US’s economic landscape. Over the last decade, a “winner-takes-most” dynamic in six digital service industries, as well as the concentration of employment in a short list of “superstar” metro areas, has been increasing.
Ten expensive, mostly coastal cities account for 70% of computer science inventors, 79% of semiconductors inventors, and 59% of biology and chemistry inventors, economist Nicholas Bloom disclosed.
This extremely uneven distribution is causing spiral housing prices in superstar metro areas while leaving other communities and talent behind. Economists and policymakers are considering intervening to offset this development.
During the Space Race last century, “place-based industrial policy” improved the geographic distribution of investment and high-tech economic activity in the US. Similar actions may be needed, as “doing nothing will likely leave AI to concentrate even more.”
The National Science Foundation has been building a distributed network of National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes. Based at universities, 19 of these institutes were established with links to 37 states with combined investments of nearly $500 million.
The 117th Congress passed an $80 billion industrial policy with various investment programs, including one that focuses on improving the nation's concentrated AI landscape.
While, according to Brookings researchers, the Biden administration “appears increasingly aware of the need to promote geographic inclusion and dynamism” and “is alert to the opportunities and challenges AI poses,” more needs to be done.
“A combination of local, state, and federal initiatives will be necessary,” they concluded.
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