An Open Letter to the Planning Community Regarding the Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in Planning
In light of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology over the span of the last year, the American Planning Association’s Technology Division has authored the following open letter to the planning community regarding the ethical use of ChatGPT, and AI more broadly in the planning practice.
This letter provides light background information on both ChatGPT and AI technology as a force in changing society, explains implications for planning practice, and offers guidance to planners on ethical use of this technology in practice based on the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
Please note that the views expressed in this letter by board members of the American Planning Association’s Technology Division do not necessarily reflect those of the American Planning Association as an organization.
As highlighted in the Emerging Trends in Planning Report, AI technology has broken into the mainstream and is having significant impacts across various industries. The increasing use of AI and automation tools will likely have major repercussions for both individuals and communities. Because planners are expected to respond to the social forces that impact people and place, we have an important role to play in preparing communities and stakeholders for the change that is to come, including shifts in market sectors reliant on office and knowledge work, potential disruptions to labor markets, and potential impacts on areas such as housing and transportation.
In February, a multi-national online forum facilitated by Claire Daniel of The Planning Institute of Australia explored the benefits and potential risks associated with use of ChatGPT in planning. Participants in the conversation noted its potential to enhance aspects of the development review process, administrative, reporting and technical tasks, community engagement, and policy development. At the same time, planners are advised to consider potential drawbacks of use of technologies like ChatGPT, namely validity of outputs, implications for originality, and inherent biases.
While AI technologies such as ChatGPT continue to evolve with new applications and functionalities being introduced with each passing day, the Technology Division offers the following general recommendations to planners. The focus is to support ethical decision making around the use of AI in planning practice with sensitivity to provisions contained within the AICP Code of Ethics.
The following is not an exhaustive list and is considered a start to an ongoing, evolving conversation around AI in the planning profession.
We are still learning about the implications of AI technology in practice. In addition to the foregoing, it is important to be willing to question applications and allocate time and resources to discussing how use of this technology affects planners’ fulfillment of their responsibility to protect marginalized and disadvantaged groups as well as promote racial and economic equity more broadly (A.3.b.). In addition to exploring ways to level the playing field, planners must also explore how access to this technology offers others with more resources and information an unfair advantage.
The American Planning Association Technology Division Board thanks you for your consideration and welcomes any suggested additions or feedback you wish to provide about the foregoing recommendations.
The Technology Division Board
About the American Planning Association Technology Division
The American Planning Association's Technology Division, offers both information and platforms for discussion about technology and data as it applies to the planning practice. The mission of the Technology Division is to:
The Technology Division offers resources to help planners find ways to enhance their practice through technology. Visit the Division’s website at tech.planning.org to learn more.