Published on November 21, 2023, 8:06 am

Illinois Takes a Closer Look at Generative AI: A StateScoop and EdScoop Special Report

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is now under scrutiny in Illinois as the state joins several others in exploring the risks and possibilities of this emerging technology. Last August, the Illinois Senate passed House Bill 3563, which established the state’s Generative AI and Natural Language Processing Task Force. The task force aims to develop best practices for AI implementation that prioritize public safety, privacy, and fairness.

Sanjay Gupta, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology and leader of the task force, recently shared his insights with StateScoop regarding generative AI. Gupta has a deep understanding of technology, having served as the Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration. His efforts there led to modernization within the agency, enabling it to process over $1 trillion in loans during a critical economic recovery period.

According to Gupta, generative AI is at a crucial turning point that will profoundly impact various sectors such as industry, business technology, and the public sector. He believes that thoughtfully deployed AI can revolutionize industries, streamline processes, and stimulate economic growth. When it comes to software choice, Gupta advocates for open-source solutions due to their transparency between creators and consumers. Open-source software allows greater visibility into how it operates and which datasets it uses.

Gupta emphasizes that when deploying generative AI or any form of AI technology in Illinois, safety, security, and trustworthiness are paramount considerations. Closed sets often lack transparency or visibility into these crucial aspects. In line with these principles of safety and security, President Biden’s administration recently issued an executive order directing federal agencies on how they should use AI technologies.

Illinois plans to start with low-risk but high-reward use cases for generative AI implementations. For example, improving chatbots to deliver a more enriched user experience or enhancing staff productivity by facilitating document processing and information synthesis from multiple sources. Gupta mentions that many public sector organizations face backlogs in processing, which generative AI can help alleviate.

When Illinois is ready to explore more advanced applications, one possibility is using generative AI to process benefit applications and determine eligibility. However, Gupta underscores the importance of never fully automating decisions that significantly impact individuals. While AI can automate repetitive tasks and improve accuracy, allowing software to unilaterally make decisions affecting humans is a cautionary concern.

To address the complexities of generative AI, the state’s task force comprises 20 members, including experts from academia and the private sector. They are working together to explore opportunities for Illinois to leverage its large language models in areas such as public school classrooms, workforce development, and cybersecurity.

Gupta acknowledges the potential risks associated with unchecked use of generative AI, including bias, job displacement, and privacy concerns. He also highlights the limitations of even the best language models—there will always be some level of error or knowledge gaps. Over time, however, as systems continue learning through experience, they will improve.

The Illinois task force is committed to transparency and public engagement. It is required to hold at least five public meetings across different regions of the state and present its recommendations in a report to the governor’s office and general assembly by the end of next year.

Illinois’ proactive approach towards exploring generative AI showcases its commitment to leveraging technological advancements while prioritizing safety, security, fairness, and privacy for its residents. By striking a balance between harnessing the benefits of AI technology and protecting citizens’ well-being, Illinois aims to lead by example in adopting responsible AI practices.

Colin Wood contributed reporting.

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