Economy

Louisville leaders see a future in which artificial intelligence plays a larger role in the city’s economy. The potential A.I. holds to transform business, education and the workforce was the central theme of the city’s annual workforce and education summit that took place at the downtown convention center on Tuesday.

Some city leaders say the focus on A.I. helped draw record interest for the event, which had 300 attendees in 2019 and more than 1,000 registrants this year.

Ben Reno-Weber, director of the Future of Work Initiative in Louisville, a Microsoft-funded program affiliated with the city, said the summit drew a diverse set of attendees. He said that was important because different voices need to be part of the conversation as the city pursues greater A.I. implementation in its businesses and educational institutions.

“Artificial intelligence, and really the broader data economy, is going to be an enabling technology,” he said. “It’s going to be like the internet, like the internal combustion engine, like electricity, it is going to permeate every piece of our lives.”

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, the chief of the city’s economic development arm, Louisville Forward, said summit attendees represented an array of business sectors.

“One of the overriding themes we’re hearing today, which is true, is that every company is now a tech company in some way,” she said. “And folks are trying to figure out what that means.”

As more businesses adopt A.I. technologies, they must think about the impact they can have on society. That’s according to Jacky Wright, Microsoft’s chief digital officer, who delivered the keynote address.

“When you think about A.I., think about the big macro level problems we have in the world today. And let’s augment that with the intelligence of the machine,” Wright said.

She said one way A.I. can support humans is by helping make predictions about things like climate change and pandemics. But she emphasized that such efforts must be undertaken responsibly, with social consequences in mind.

Correction: This post has been changed to accurately reflect Jacky Wright’s title. She is Chief Digital Officer.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.