This month, GSP attended the Seattle Times’ interactive symposium on artificial intelligence (AI) and the future of work featuring University of Washington (UW) public-policy lecturer Akthar Badshah, co-executive director of United for Respect Andrea Dehlendorf, and UW technology and law professor Ryan Calo.

Seattle Times business reporter Melissa Hellmann moderated a lively discussion on artificial intelligence and the future of our workforce with the panel.

Calo argued that the capabilities of AI are overstated, but, if some aspects of the workforce are replicated by AI, the effects will be deeply felt.

Dehlendorf warned of the danger in allowing technology corporations to decide how AI will be implemented and regulated; she argued that guardrails are necessary. Badshah echoed these concerns and argued that the distribution of AI technology must be equitable, and policy must ensure that the consequences do not fall disproportionately across society.

Indeed, discussions of artificial intelligence are fostering a great deal of unease and uncertainty. How does greater Seattle and Washington state’s innovation ecosystem fit in to this discussion and how does our region stack up against major players in this increasingly influential technology?

Washington is a formidable player in AI and its subset machine learning (ML) with many influential companies and institutions headquartered in greater Seattle, like cloud computing giants Microsoft and Amazon, the University of Washington, the Allen Institute for AI, Expedia, Starbucks, and T-Mobile to name a few.

The influx of engineering outposts in greater Seattle, like Google, Facebook, Apple, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent demonstrate the region’s power in AI.

According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, Washington is home to 179 startup companies classified as AI/ML valued at $4 billion as of 2018. Approximately 6,400 people are employed at active AI/ML startups.

We are an increasingly influential hub for global companies looking to establish an AI development outpost. Thanks to the region’s uniquely dominant role in providing cloud services, greater Seattle is well-positioned to be an industry leader in AI, a technology that requires huge quantities of data.

The region accounts for 5.9% of AI job postings in the US – the sixth largest number of US job postings, behind New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Washington DC, and Boston.

The availability of talent is also on the rise. The University of Washington is a pioneer in AI education with a world-renowned Computer Science & Engineering program and related programs in the Information School and eScience Institute. Talent availability has attracted the attention of global companies like Baidu and Tencent, both of which chose to establish AI research facilities in greater Seattle in recent years.

However, 71 percent of Americans fear the surge in artificial intelligence (AI) will cause more job loss than gain according to a recent Northeastern University and Gallup survey.

Conversations such as the Seattle Times’ special symposium on AI are being convened across the region to help engage all levels of society. Next month, the Tech Alliance will host a one-day summit on AI to hear from leading experts in the field and discuss how the technology can strengthen Washington’s innovation economy.

Greater Seattle Partners will continue tracking AI and its impacts on our workforce and regional economy. Click here for our background briefing on the AI and automation sector in greater Seattle.

In The News

View All News