Tanaka suggests using artificial intelligence at City Hall to reduce labor costs

Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka. File photo.
Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka. File photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka said tonight (May 1) that he wants to look at laying off city employees and replacing them with artificial intelligence.

“I wonder, with AI and using ChatGPT, do we need as many people as we have?” Tanaka said during a discussion about the city budget.

In the local private sector, companies have been laying off 10 to 20% of their employees locally, and Twitter laid off 80% of its staff, Tanaka said.

“They’re still operating. They’re still providing their service,” he said.

Tanaka noted that city employee salaries and benefits are growing at twice the rate of inflation in the next fiscal year. He encouraged managers to think about how to use AI.

ChatGPT is an AI program released earlier this year that can generate language that sounds like it was written by a human.

The arrival of the new technology has sparked fear, excitement and debate.

Superintendent Don Austin said last month that the Palo Alto Unified School District would embrace AI, using it to personalize learning and improve efficiency.

“It can translate text into multiple languages, edit documents, modify assignments for special education students and English learners, and produce summaries,” Austin said.

At a San Francisco Press Club panel in Mountain View last week, journalists talked about both the promise and the peril of AI.

On one hand, ChatGPT makes up false information and can trick people into thinking they’re getting information from a real person. But used correctly, it can be like having another worker on the team, VentureBeat editor Michael Nunez said.

“I’m convinced this is bigger than Google,” he said.


    • Didn’t you know? He’s a Tanaka Bot 2000, an early version of the much more successful Tanaka Bot 3000. The manufacturer, Biosyn Corp. discontinued the 2000 due to some logic errors on the motherboard. But Biosyn never came to city hall to replace their 2000 model.

  1. You may have noticed the stock market today where it’s forecast that at least 1/4 of all workers will be displaced by AI.

    Isn’t Palo Alto a beneficiary of all the innovation coming from Stanford and big tech?

    Aren’t we supposed to be leading edge in this like everything else we brag about?

  2. I have played with chatGPT around areas in coding where I am well versed, and it does reasonably well in pulling together canned information, that I know is out there. My concern with replacing City staff with chatGPT, is that when I call or write the City, I would never be allowed to speak “with a real person” … How many of us, have been stuck in endless customer support loops?

    It’s been reported, that Russia has lost 100,000 solders in the Ukraine war. That would have been a good AI deployment … Just respawn them, when they are lost.

  3. Totally for it. I most of those employees will be earning huge pensions … and if you’ve felt with planning, their slow throughput, and over regulation adds cost on the front side.

    AI could do a lot if this work. The tech is basically at the level needed, the experience and buildout are not. GREAT area for startups “slow moving fat animals”.

  4. Council member Tanaka consistantly votes no on almost all contracts that are required to operate City services. He once stated that he could get a better cell phone deal at the AT&T store than what the City negotiated for all employees!

    And how does AI work to clean out backed up sewers?

  5. Can AI fix the city’s mail system which has mustakenly sent mail to staff and City Councik to a spam folder for years, an excuse which the city has been using for years?

    Can AI write better excuses for its mistakes and/or inaction that I’ve long called “lengthy and irrelevant responses to taxpayer inquiries?

    Can AI stonewall press inquiries better than our huge and highly paid Communications team?

    Can AI correlate complaints with a given address rather than asking us for the date(s) over the years when we last complained about problems at that address?

    Cab AI stop wasting our money on “traffic calming” and bollards while trying to increase the population since it’s hazardous to our physical and mental health?

    Can AI stop basing city priorities on the charade that ity surveys bases on a few hundred people are a priority and/or that the Fiber to The Home is wanted by a majority?

  6. Way to support your teammates, those who have been working hard and supporting the City! Let’s replace you with a robot, minimize a huge cost! Work on a solution and not make yourself look like some hero and contribute to more unemployment.

  7. Tanaka has a point, Palo Alto has a bloated payroll and AI could certainly answer half the phone calls from the public and public records requests.

  8. [Name was removed for violating Terms of Use.] Like most out of touch people they don’t seem to realize that CEOs and Government officials would be the easiest for AI to replace but they want to replace the skilled

  9. I would support AI to replace some of the city staff — we could start with Molly Stumpf who never has anything useful to say.

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