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Cincinnati: The Heartbeat of Responsible A.I. in America’s Midwest

When you think of artificial intelligence hubs, your mind might jump to the coasts in the United States. But there’s a new player in the game, and it’s got a distinctly Midwestern flavor. 

Cincinnati, Ohio, is quietly becoming a powerhouse in the world of A.I., and it’s doing so with a unique twist: a focus on responsible, human-centered development.

Let’s dive into how the Queen City is transforming into the crown jewel of Responsible A.I. in the Midwest.

The Rise of Cincinnati’s A.I. Ecosystem: From Rust Belt to Tech Belt

Cincinnati’s journey from industrial heavyweight to tech innovator is nothing short of remarkable. At the heart of this transformation is CincyAI, a community-driven initiative that’s become the largest A.I. meetup in Southwest Ohio. Creativity Squared’s Helen Todd is the co-host alongside Kendra Rameriz who believe that a rising tide lifts all ships.

Picture this: It’s October 2023, and a small group of A.I. enthusiasts gather for the first CincyAI meetup…fast forward to today, and you’ll find over 150 people gathering at the University of Cincinnati’s Digital Futures building each month, eager to connect, collaborate, and learn from one another as we navigate this brave new world of artificial intelligence and usher in a human-centered future together.

What makes CincyAI special? It’s not just a club for tech whizzes. From the A.I.-curious to seasoned developers, everyone’s welcome. It’s like a potluck dinner where instead of casseroles, people bring their questions, ideas, and what they’re building.

Responsible A.I.: Cincinnati’s Secret Sauce

In the race to develop artificial intelligence, many tech hubs are focused solely on creating the smartest, fastest systems. But Cincinnati is taking a different approach. The Queen City is championing “responsible A.I.” – a philosophy that emphasizes ethical development, transparency, and societal benefit alongside technological advancement.

Responsible A.I. isn’t just a buzzword in Cincinnati; it’s the foundation of the city’s entire A.I. ecosystem. It means developing A.I. systems that are not only powerful but also accountable, fair, and aligned with human values. This approach considers the potential impacts of A.I. on society, privacy, and individual rights from the very beginning of the development process.

Imagine if the inventors of social media had thought about the potential downsides before unleashing their creations on the world. That’s the idea behind responsible A.I. – developing powerful tools while actively considering and mitigating potential negative impacts baked into the fabric of development.

Cincinnati’s approach to A.I. is like a well-crafted cocktail: two parts cutting-edge technology, one part Midwestern values, with a splash of foresight. It’s an approach that’s turning heads and winning hearts.

As Pete Blackshaw, CEO of Cincinnati-based BrandRank.AI, puts it: “We have all these good Midwest values, and we want to take those values and bake them into A.I. as well.” BrandRank.AI is using A.I. to help brands measure and improve trust, especially in areas like sustainability and data usage.

It’s not just about creating the smartest A.I.; it’s about creating the most ethical and beneficial artificial intelligence.

This isn’t just talk. With these initiatives in the burgeoning A.I. ecosystem, people are walking the walk:

  • The University of Cincinnati’s Digital Futures and 1819 Innovation Hub are part of the one-hundred million dollar investment into the Cincinnati Innovation District. UC Digital Futures is a multi-disciplinary building and is pioneering research in A.I. ethics and governance with leaders like Dr. Kelly Cohen who has been researching responsible A.I. and fuzzy logic for over 30 years.
  • Cincinnati AI Catalyst is working to ensure A.I. adoption benefits the entire community in the Cincinnati, not just a select few.
  • Cincy AI Week is bringing people together across the country to converge in Cincinnati around responsible A.I., turning curiosity into capabilities. They’ve already announced a Columbus AI Week coming this fall too.

It’s Collaboration, Not Competition

Silicon Valley’s motto “move fast and break things,” has broken society. We see this in hyperpolarization, teen depression, and the loneliness episode, to name a few things. The community in Cincinnati doesn’t want to see what else will be broken, especially given how powerful A.I. is and will be.

Embracing responsible A.I., means mitigating risks and building the future we all want to live in, together.

Take the University of Cincinnati. Its Digital Futures building and 1819 Innovation Hub aren’t ivory towers – they’re bustling hives of activity where academics, industry leaders, and startups rub shoulders and share ideas and solve problems that matter.

But it’s not just about academia and business. The city government, led by Mayor Aftab Pureval, is also actively supporting A.I. initiatives.

Of course, organizations like Cincinnati AI Catalyst are the glue holding this ecosystem together. They’re not just cheering from the sidelines; they’re actively shaping the future of A.I. in the region to ensure that all of Cincinnati’s 2.25 million residents don’t get left behind not only a digital divide, but a potential intelligence divide.

Ohio: The Silicon Valley of the Midwest?

Cincinnati isn’t operating in a vacuum. It’s part of a broader tech renaissance happening across Ohio. When Google announces a $2.3 billion investment in the state (on top of $4.4 billion already invested) and Intel’s $20B investment in Columbus for chip manufacturing, you know something big is brewing.

This influx of tech investment is positioning Ohio as a serious contender in the national tech scene. 

While traditional tech hubs are grappling with issues like sky-high costs of living and “tech bro” culture, Cincinnati is offering a refreshing alternative. 

It’s a place where innovation meets Midwestern hospitality, where cutting-edge tech is balanced with community values.

A.I. for Good: More Than Just a Slogan

In Cincinnati, “A.I. for Good” isn’t just a catchy phrase – it’s a mission statement. The city’s approach to A.I. development is tackling some of society’s biggest challenges head-on.

Take the issue of polarization, for instance. While some A.I. systems might exacerbate divisions, Cincinnati’s A.I. community is actively working on solutions that bring people together. Or consider mental health – local researchers are exploring how A.I. can be used to support mental wellbeing, not undermine it.

But it’s not just about solving problems. It’s about preparing for the future. Cincinnati is investing heavily in workforce development and education. From A.I. bootcamps to university programs, the city is ensuring its residents are ready for the A.I. revolution.

The Road Ahead: Cincinnati’s A.I. Future

So, what’s next for Cincinnati’s A.I. scene? The calendar is packed with exciting events:

  • NKU’s BizAccessHub Small Business AI Bootcamp (July 11) will provide hands-on 101 A.I. training with mentors like Creativity Squared’s Helen Todd.
  • Black Tech Week (July 16-18) is an incredible experience that guides investors, entrepreneurs, tech professionals, and creatives across 3 days of curated content, meaningful connections and incredible energy– empowering every attendee with unparalleled opportunities for success! (Helen is a speaker)
  • MidwestCon (September 4-6, 2024) will bring together experts in A.I., blockchain, and data justice from across the country. (CincyAI is a community partner and Helen is a speaker)
  • Marketing AI Institute’s MAICON Conference (September 10-12, Cleveland) brings together the best in the industry to help you learn, grow, and accelerate your marketing AI journey. (Helen is a speaker)
  • Columbus AI Week (Coming this September, Columbus) is your gateway to the future of artificial intelligence in the Greater Columbus Region and beyond.
  • StartupCincy Week (October 7-10, 2024) will showcase the latest innovations from local tech entrepreneurs.
  • Columbus AI Summit by OhioX (November 20, Columbus) join this inaugural summit to connect with industry leaders, explore cutting-edge Ohio-led advancements, and witness firsthand Ohio’s leadership in AI innovation.
  • Monthly CincyAI for Humans meetups continue to grow and evolve, fostering community and collaboration. (Helen Co-Hosts this alongside Kendra Rameriz)

These events aren’t just about showing off cool tech. They’re about shaping the future of A.I. in a way that benefits everyone. For more, check out Kendra’s website which has the most comprehensive list of A.I. events in the region.

Cincinnati’s vision for A.I. is clear: to be a global leader in responsible, human-centered A.I. development. It’s a lofty goal, but if any city can do it, it’s the one that turned pork into flying pigs (if you know, you know).

Why Cincinnati’s A.I. Scene Matters (Even If You Don’t Live There)

You might be thinking, “This is all great for Cincinnati, but why should I care?” Well, the work being done in Cincinnati has implications far beyond the city limits.

In a world where A.I. is becoming increasingly powerful and ubiquitous, the approach taken by pioneers like Cincinnati could shape the future of technology globally. If Cincinnati succeeds in creating a model for responsible, ethical A.I. development, it could provide a blueprint for other cities and companies around the world.

Moreover, the collaborative, community-focused approach of Cincinnati’s A.I. ecosystem offers valuable lessons for any industry or community looking to foster innovation. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the most powerful advancements come not from cutthroat competition, but from working together towards a common goal.

Getting Involved: Your Ticket to the A.I. Revolution

Excited about what’s happening in Cincinnati? Want to be part of the responsible A.I. movement? Here are some ways to get involved:

  1. If you’re local, attend a CincyAI meetup. They’re held monthly at the UC Digital Futures building.
  2. Mark your calendar for MidwestCon and other upcoming events.
  3. Check out resources from Cincinnati AI Catalyst to learn more about responsible A.I.
  4. If you’re a student or professional, look into A.I. programs and opportunities at the University of Cincinnati.
  5. For those outside Cincinnati, consider how you can apply these principles of responsible, collaborative A.I. development in your own community.

Remember, the future of A.I. isn’t just being written in Silicon Valley boardrooms or Ivy League labs. It’s being shaped in places like Cincinnati, where innovation meets responsibility, and where community values are as important as cutting-edge technology.

As we stand on the brink of an A.I. revolution, Cincinnati is showing us that it’s possible to embrace the future while staying true to our values. It’s a city that’s proving that when it comes to A.I., “responsible” doesn’t mean “restrictive,” and “ethical” doesn’t mean “ineffective.”

So the next time someone asks you about the future of A.I., don’t just think of robots and algorithms. Think of a city on the banks of the Ohio River, where a community is coming together to ensure that as A.I. gets smarter, it also becomes wiser, kinder, and more human-centered.

In the world of A.I., Cincinnati isn’t just keeping up – it’s leading the way. And that’s something worth paying attention to, no matter where you call home.