Clint Andrews et al. publish AI in Planning: Opportunities and Challenges and How to Prepare

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been in development since the 1950s. However, due to the availability of big data and increased computing power, the AI market has grown substantially over the last decade and is expected to grow more than 20 percent annually over the next few years. AI is expected to be one of the biggest disruptors of the 21st century, with impacts affecting the economy, the built environment, society, and most professions, including the planning profession. Planners and allied professionals should have a strong understanding of the potential impacts and benefits posed by AI on the profession and the communities they serve. AI is already reshaping the local landscape, and it is important to understand how planners can use AI equitably and productively.

If deployed responsibly, AI has the potential to assist planners in their work, improve existing planning processes, create efficiencies, and allow planners to refocus their work on the human factors of planning (i.e., human interactions, connecting with community members, and related human skills). However, the use of AI also poses the risk of exacerbating existing inequalities in society if its user is unprepared and doesn’t understand and question the systems and algorithms in place.

As part of APA’s foresight practice, APA hosted an “AI in Planning” Foresight Community, a multidisciplinary group of experts in planning, computer science, data analytics, sociology, geography, and engineering, among other disciplines. The Foresight Community met 10 times over the course of one year, from June 2021 to June 2022, to discuss potential impacts from AI on the planning profession, the need for ethical AI, and how planners can prepare for AI. This white paper, co-authored by Bloustein School Prof. Clint Andrews, summarizes the findings and suggests initial ideas on how planners can prepare for AI and its potential impacts, how planners can ensure AI-based planning tools are used in equitable and inclusive ways, and what the role of the planner should be in developing and using AI-based planning tools.