November, 2018
November 12, 2018

Now is the time to start the AI conversation before opinion hardens

November 12, 2018
By Justin Greeves and Luna Berhane | November, 2018
By Justin Greeves and Luna Berhane
By Justin Greeves and Luna BerhaneNovember 12, 2018

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.

Get the conversation 
started today.

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