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Updated: February 19, 2024 Opinion

Viewpoint: Leveraging intelligence for a smarter community

The implications from the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, is a pressing question facing every consumer, employer, and policymaker.

A man wearing glasses and a suit with a red tie
Photo | Courtesy of Worcester Regional Research Bureau
Paul Matthews, executive director and CEO of Worcester Regional Research Bureau

To provide insights on the issues associated with AI, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau brought Professor Renée Cummings, the University of Virginia’s first data activist-in-residence, to address our annual meeting. Cummings is a 2023 VentureBeat AI Innovator Award winner, one of the World Summit AI’s Top 50 AI Innovators in 2020, and internationally renowned as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Data Equity Council and AI Governance Alliance.

In her address, Cummings was clear AI is not coming in the future, but instead has already been in use for a long time. Everyone has already been using AI for years, through Google searches, Amazon recommendations, Netflix queues, Spotify playlists, and social media feeds.

“Just about every industry, every discipline, and every aspect of everything we do is being reimagined, redefined, repositioned, and resituated with its use,” Cummings said. The impact of AI has been recognized internationally, with a United Nations advisory body calling for AI’s implementation under guiding principles of inclusivity; public interest and accountability; data governance; universal buy-in; and international law. Nationally, an executive order called for new AI safety and security; protections from AI-related fraud and deceptions; new data privacy measures; civil rights protections; supports for consumers, students, workers, and patients; resources for AI research; and responsible government use of AI.

Cummings pointed out these responses illustrate ethics and innovation can and should co-exist as AI is developed. She called for governments to leverage different forms of intelligence, including cultural and urban intelligence, in the development of smart cities.

While AI has the ability to deliver extraordinary rewards, there are enormous risks, since it has the potential to deny opportunities, limit access, and even undermine democracy and civil and human rights. Cummings called for appropriate oversight with transparency, accountability, and stakeholder engagement. Most businesses are already doing a good job protecting consumers’ information, providing a strong foundation for the extension of such protections to AI. Such public oversight, engagement, and education measures would ensure the successful utilization of AI.

Bringing Cummings with her insights on AI is part of long tradition of the bureau providing guidance on the complex issues confronting our community. Analogous to AI, our data-driven reports, briefs, and online visualizations lead to informed recommendations and improved decision-making in Greater Worcester.

Paul Matthews is executive director and CEO of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. Renée Cummings’ address on AI and the WRRB’s other resources are at

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