Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been in the headlines for a number of months. Most of the commentary has been negative, almost apocalyptic. We have heard about invasions of privacy, job loss and even the destruction of humanity! Being prudent about the deployment of new technology is always a good course of action. We always should think carefully about using new technology, especially in light of how previous break-throughs have impacted society and the economy, both positively and negatively.
Automation has lowered the costs of manufacturing while at the same time eliminating good paying jobs. Social media has connected the world but also has turned our political discourse toxic. Therefore, we should think carefully in how we use artificial intelligence.
Fortunately, New Jersey is leading the way in guiding the use of AI without smothering innovation. Senator Troy Singleton of Burlington County has introduced a bill to facilitate the state government to develop a framework for adopting AI technology with analysis of both costs and benefits. Additionally, a bipartisan group of senators and assembly representatives, including South Jersey assembly representatives Herb Conaway, Lou Greenwald and Carol Murphy, have introduced several bills to address deep fake technology. All of these bills are highly appropriate and deserve passage.
The legislature should consider taking a step further to ensure that AI drives growth and creates jobs. Artificial Intelligence is far more than algorithms. It requires tremendous infrastructure to run those algorithms, housed in specialized data centers. This creates an opportunity for South Jersey to become a hub for AI data centers. Therefore, the state should pass legislation for tax incentives to encourage these data centers.
The benefits are clear. AI data centers increase the property tax base. They create jobs for buildings and trades since they either would need to be constructed or better still drive revitalization through reuse of existing facilities. Wouldn’t it be great to see dying malls and empty office space gain a second life? AC Racetrack to get a new purpose? The empty factories of Millville to see their potential? Or the NARTP to gets its long awaited second building?
These data centers will require more technicians and engineers to ensure the algorithms are working as they intended and thus, create permanent jobs. Due to the novelty of AI, these data centers also could serve as research centers for innovating AI and as training facilities to develop a workforce capable of managing the technology.
South Jersey is a natural fit for AI data centers. We already host industries that would benefit from these data centers. These industries include aviation (FAA Tech Center), defense (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst), finance, gaming and logistics. We have proximity to New York state, which thanks to the CHIPS Act passed on a bipartisan coalition in Congress and signed by President Biden, is poised to become a hub for manufacturing the processors and mainframes that will be the nerve center of data centers. With the development of offshore wind, there will be a sustainable source of energy to power these data centers.
The economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the phrase “creative destruction” as the driving force behind capitalism. It referred to the idea that innovation may be disruptive to the economic life of a society but also increases productivity. Forward thinking legislators have taken steps to minimize the disruption that AI poises. New Jersey must now take steps to unleash its potential to improve our lives.