The New York Governor is proposing that the state fund a $275 million portion of an AI Center project to ensure state and university involvement with an AI center. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Governor Hochul Plans to Commit $275M in NY Funds to Establish Empire AI Center

In her third State of the State address, Governor Kathy Hochul will propose the establishment of a statewide consortium called “Empire A.I.” that aims to position New York as a leader in AI research. The plan involves directing $275 million in state funds towards the construction of a center that several public and private research institutions, including the State University of New York, the City University of New York, Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will jointly use.

Each of the universities will contribute $25 million to the project, and additional private funding has been secured from Thomas Secunda, co-founder of Bloomberg L.P., and the Simons Foundation.

The initiative includes the establishment of a physical center in upstate New York, which will provide remote access to the substantial computing power required for modern A.I. software. Governor Hochul sees this investment as vital for strengthening the state’s economy, addressing the disparities between tech companies and academic institutions in the race to develop A.I., and benefiting institutions across New York.

However, the proposal will need approval from the Democratic-controlled Legislature and must contend with other competing priorities and a looming budget deficit. Governor Hochul’s economic strategy has involved significant investments to secure New York’s position in the technological marketplace, including a $5.5 billion incentive package for Micron’s new facility outside Syracuse.

The project has received support from prominent figures in the AI industry, such as Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, who believes that private-public partnerships like this are crucial for the safe and beneficial development and deployment of AI technologies. Julie Samuels, President and Executive Director of Tech:NYC, anticipates that the consortium will attract academics and companies seeking to hire top talent.

The consortium aims to level the playing field between the public and private sectors by granting researchers access to previously unavailable tools. It also seeks to challenge the monopoly that large tech companies have on AI and enable collaborative research in the public interest. However, some have expressed concerns about the state’s plan to create its own cloud computing infrastructure instead of leveraging existing platforms like Amazon or Google, citing logistical complexities and potential issues regarding security and reliability.

Proponents of the consortium argue that it will open up new avenues for applying AI technology in various fields, including urban planning, medicine, and music. By providing stronger computer systems, it could enhance weather forecasting capabilities and help address the challenges of climate change.

Overall, Governor Hochul’s proposal for the “Empire AI” consortium seeks to position New York as a hub for AI research and foster collaboration between academia, industry, and the public sector, to drive innovation, economic growth, and societal progress.