News & Politics

The Adams administration quietly hired its first AI czar. Who is he?

Jiahao Chen, who led AI initiatives at JPMorgan Chase and Capital One, is the city’s new director of AI and machine learning.

New York City Hall

New York City Hall Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

New York City has quietly filled the role of director of artificial intelligence and machine learning, City & State has learned. In mid-January, Jiahao Chen, a former director of AI research at JPMorgan Chase and the founder of independent consulting company Responsible AI LLC, took on the role, which has been described by the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation as spearheading the city’s “comprehensive AI strategy.”

Despite Mayor Eric Adams’ administration publicizing the position last January, Chen’s hiring nearly a year later came without any fanfare or even an announcement. The first mention of Chen as director of AI came in a press release sent out by the Office of Technology and Innovation on Thursday morning, announcing next steps in the city’s AI Action Plan. “OTI Director of AI and Machine Learning Jiahao Chen will manage implementation of the Action Plan,” the press release noted.

New York City previously had an AI director under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. Neal Parikh served as the city’s director of AI under the office of former Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer, which released a citywide AI strategy in 2021. Under de Blasio, the city also had an algorithms management and policy officer to guide the city in the development, responsible use and assessment of algorithmic tools, which can include AI and machine learning. The old CTO’s office and the work of the algorithms officer was consolidated along with the city’s other technology-related offices into the new Office of Technology and Innovation at the outset of the Adams administration. 

The Adams administration has referred to its own director of AI and machine learning as a new role, however, and has suggested that the position will be more empowered, in part because it is under the larger, centralized Office of Technology and Innovation. According to the job posting last January, which noted a $75,000 to $140,000 pay range, the director will be responsible for helping agencies use AI and machine learning tools responsibly, consulting with agencies on questions about AI use and governance, and serving as a subject matter expert on citywide policy and planning, among other things. How the role will actually work in practice remains to be seen.

The Adams administration’s AI action plan was published in October, and is a 37-point road map aimed at helping the city “responsibly harness the power of AI for good.” On Thursday, the Office of Technology and Innovation announced the first update on the action plan, naming members of an advisory network that will consult on the city’s work. That list includes former City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, who is now vice president of policy at Tech:NYC. The office also released a set of AI principles and definitions, and guidance on generative AI.

OTI spokesperson Ray Legendre said that an offer for the position of director of AI was extended to Chen before the city’s hiring freeze began last October. The office did not explicitly address why Chen’s hiring wasn’t announced when he started the role. “Over the past two months, Jiahao has been a key part of our ongoing efforts to implement the AI Action Plan,” Legendre wrote in an email. “Our focus at OTI over the past few months has been on making progress on the Action Plan – which is what we announced today.”

According to the website for Responsible AI LLC, Chen’s independent consulting company, Chen’s resume includes stints in academia as well as the private sector, including as a senior manager of data science at Capital One, and as director of AI research at JPMorgan Chase. 

After City & State inquired about Chen’s role, Chen confirmed it on X, writing “I can finally talk about my new job!”