NYU McSilver Appoints Minerva Tantoco as Chief AI Officer

Photo of Minerva Tantoco with her arms crossed atop a futuristic backdrop.

The former Chief Technology Officer of New York City will lead The AI Hub at McSilver

Contact: Sheryl Huggins Salomon, mcsilver.comms@nyu.edu

NEW YORK, February 15, 2022 — The NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research has appointed Minerva Tantoco to be its first Chief AI Officer, effective March 1, 2022. She is an innovator, patent holder and entrepreneur who is committed to using technology to improve lives equitably. Ms. Tantoco pioneered New York City’s efforts to prepare for its technological future, as its first-ever Chief Technology Officer. She brings expertise in AI, fintech, smart cities, cybersecurity and mobile technology to her new role at NYU McSilver, which will be overseeing the work of the newly-created AI Hub at McSilver.

During Ms. Tantoco’s time as CTO in the Mayor’s Office, New York City was named “2016 Best Smart City” by the Smart City Expo World Congress. She also helped launch initiatives such as LinkNYC, CSforAll, and Internet of Things Guidelines, as well as promoting an inclusive, equitable tech ecosystem. After leaving City Hall, she co-founded Grasshopper Bank. She has also served as Senior Product Manager at Palm, Chief Technology Officer at Merrill Lynch and UBS, and holds four U.S. patents on intelligent workflow.

“Minerva’s commitment to discovering new ways for technology to serve the public good makes her a perfect fit for McSilver’s mission to disrupt poverty and inequity,” says Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, Executive Director of NYU McSilver. “She will be leading a hub that has been established to investigate how AI-driven systems can be used to equitably address poverty and challenges relating to race and public health, and to provide thought leadership on the implications. We can’t imagine a better person to lead that effort.”

The hub has been made possible through a $5 million gift by NYU McSilver’s Founder Dr. Constance McCatherin Silver and her husband Martin Silver. “Our gift aims to support innovative and visionary work that illuminates the best ways for AI to address society’s most intractable problems,” say the Silvers, in a joint statement. “Minerva’s technology expertise, enterprising spirit and passion for social good make her a perfect fit for leading the hub in this work.”

“Minerva is a trailblazer in STEM and she brings an innovative spirit to any endeavor she takes on,” says Dr. Margaret Honey, President and CEO of the New York Hall of Science, where Ms. Tantoco is on the Board of Trustees. “This was the case when she was awarded four US patents on intelligent workflow, it was true when she became New York City’s first Chief Technology Officer, and it will hold true as she takes the helm of the AI Hub at McSilver. I look forward to the hub’s contribution to the nation’s technology landscape under her leadership.”

“Minerva has demonstrated a people-centered approach to technology throughout her career. She reminds us how AI can ingrain and amplify disparities between people, but also understands the enormous potential it holds to reduce bias and level the playing field,” says FairPlay Founder and CEO Kareem Saleh, whose company provides AI-enabled tools to reduce bias in financial lending. “Her appointment to lead the AI Hub at McSilver signals that it will bring positive disruption to the world of AI, and to the systems that it powers.”

“Minerva is not just a tech star; she’s also a long-time resident of New York who understands the city’s potential as well as its problems,” says Esther Dyson, Executive Founder of Wellville, a 10-year-old nonprofit project dedicated to equitable well-being. “As a mother and a daughter, she understands how tech policies — and AI — can both cause and address the challenges of poverty in the real world. She combines high-tech with common sense. What a great catch for McSilver!”

“As AI-driven tools are being developed and deployed to serve industries and governments, we must remember that their greatest promise lies in serving the public good,” says Ms. Tantoco. “It takes thought leadership to innovate and hold systems accountable in order to ensure they live up to that promise, and do not deepen racial and social inequities. I’m excited to take on that challenge through the work of the AI Hub at McSilver.”

Ms. Tantoco grew up in Flushing, Queens and attended Bronx High School of Science, after emigrating from the Philippines. Her interest in AI is a natural progression from two tangential interests that she had at Vassar College in the 1980s. As she told Forbes in 2013: “As a pre-med student, I had a fascination with how the brain works, which led me to neuropsychology; philosophy of the mind; and cognitive science, which are strongly tied to computer science and artificial intelligence (AI). I used the mainframe to run statistics for a psych class, and later, studied programming for expert systems.”

Ms. Tantoco had co-founded a start-up, Manageware, Inc., before even leaving college. Later, while working on a team working on an automated technology system, she was part of a team granted four patents involving the application of AI techniques to manage complex multi-path workflows within the system.

She brought the same innovative approach to subsequent positions in the corporate world and public sector. Today, in addition to her role at the New York Hall of Science, Ms. Tantoco is on the Board of Directors of Vyv; an Advisor to One Creation Embedded Privacy and Socure; and is on the Technology Council for the Alliance for Innovative Regulation. In December 2021 she moderated a panel for the Congressional AI Caucus briefing on Algorithms in Financial Services. She is writing a book titled “Ethical AI: A Practitioner’s Guide.”

About the NYU McSilver Institute

The NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research is committed to creating new knowledge about the root causes of poverty, developing evidence-based interventions to address its consequences, and rapidly translating research findings into action through policy and best practices. Learn more at mcsilver.nyu.edu and sign up for updates.