AI is the most talked-about technology of our time. It has the power to change almost all aspects of our present and future, but does the public really understand what it means and how it might benefit them? To uncover insights into perceptions around AI, our team of research and communications experts created the AI Risk Preparedness Index. This inaugural study scores the perceptions of AI within three initial industries, and the companies within them, through the lens of several audiences including policymakers, activists, employees, consumers and industry analysts.

A significant input into the AI Risk Index is an exhaustive survey of the general U.S. population, as well as employees in three key industries in which AI is expected to continue to have a significant impact – retail, manufacturing and transportation. The results of this nationwide study suggest that AI represents the unknown of today’s rapidly evolving technology landscape and concerns the public across a wide variety of aspects from job security to data privacy to ethical issues around AI-powered machines. Companies should start the conversation on the benefits of AI now, while many are still open to learning more, or else they run the risk of public opinion hardening around its perceived negatives and eventually taking a hit to their brand’s reputation as they continue to incorporate more AI into their businesses.

Robots. Computers. Machines. That’s what comes to mind when the general public is asked about AI. Beyond those conventional views, there is some gray area. When asked about AI on an unaided basis, 4 in 10 (41%) say they have neither a positive nor negative opinion or they are unsure. While this number suggests that public opinion is not solidly for or against AI, our research also shows that there is significantly more concern around the risks of AI than there is excitement around its benefits. More than half of Americans (59%) are worried about the threats of AI, while only 38% say they are eager about its potentials. This underscores why companies need to control the messaging behind AI now. They need to demystify what it means to the average American before it is too late.

Overall, how concerned are you about the potential risks associated with AI?

Even further proving this point, when asked about different impacts of AI, it is the potential negatives that resonate the most with Americans, more so than the potential positives. The public is concerned about job loss, data privacy, security and hacking, the safety of machines that are powered by AI and more. Additionally, key industry employees are even more worried about certain threats such as losing their jobs, and they are also significantly more likely to believe AI will impact their sectors the most. It is clear that traditional media has hammered home this threat to job security, and if counter-arguments are not made, public opinion on this will only continue to solidify.

Which of the following aspects of AI, if any, are you most concerned about? 

This concern around AI pushes Americans to agree that the government should put in place more regulations and laws around AI (60% agree). This again underscores why businesses should get ahead of AI sooner rather than later. Companies should engage in the debate now to help shape the perceptions and politics around AI, jobs and the future – before others do it for them.

In general, when thinking about how AI can affect the daily lives of Americans, to what extent do you agree or disagree that the government should put in place more regulations and laws around AI?

Our findings show that unless AI is explained, it will be considered a perceptual threat to most Americans, as they see it as disrupting their very livelihood. Right now public opinion about AI is still malleable, presenting an opportunity for companies adopting AI to get ahead of the looming reputational challenges. But this window will not be open for long. Now is the best time for these businesses to define the positives of AI in a way that will position them as forward-thinking, innovative and working on behalf of the best interests of their consumers and employees.

SAN FRANCISCO — In July, two of the world’s top artificial intelligence labs unveiled a system that could read lips.

Designed by researchers from Google Brain and DeepMind — the two big-name labs owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet — the automated setup could at times outperform professional lip readers. When reading lips in videos gathered by the researchers, it identified the wrong word about 40 percent of the time, while the professionals missed about 86 percent.

There is no shortage of predictions about how artificial intelligence is going to reshape where, how and if people work in the future.

But the grand work-changing projects of A.I., like self-driving cars and humanoid robots, are not yet commercial products. A more humble version of the technology, instead, is making its presence felt in a less glamorous place: the back office.

AT THE BLOCKBUSTER plenary sessions, the chairs stretched so far back that even the most youthful Silicon Valley college dropouts-turned VC hoovers had to squint to see the action up in front. A handful of large projection screens hung between the ballroom’s chandeliers, displaying loop-de-looping flow charts on vehicle safety systems, sensor alignments, liability law.

One of the best-selling T-shirts for the Indian e-commerce site Myntra is an olive, blue and yellow colorblocked design. It was conceived not by a human but by a computer algorithm — or rather two algorithms.

The first algorithm generated random images that it tried to pass off as clothing. The second had to distinguish between those images and clothes in Myntra’s inventory. Through a long game of one-upmanship, the first algorithm got better at producing images that resembled clothing, and the second got better at determining whether they were like — but not identical to — actual products.

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