AI: the technology we love to hyperbolise

Agata Pavia

The beginning of the end of life as we know it, or an unheralded force for good? The Artificial Intelligence (AI) debate frequently swings across both extremes.

One thing’s for sure. It’s a topic that’s impacting all of our clients, across all industries and sectors, in all markets and in all organisations, whatever their size or scale.

So which side of the argument is right? Will Artificial Intelligence deliver an uncontrollable army of robots, stealing our jobs, our lives and everything we stand for? Or is it a groundbreaking, often lifesaving, new technology that will positively impact the world around us in ways we can barely even comprehend right now?

To get some answers, we spoke to a panel of 25 global AI experts to gather their insights on this much disputed topic. Inevitably, their precise views on the future of the technology offered up some interesting variations, but there was one point on which they were united: A lot of what has been discussed to-date, is mere hype; the AI apocalypse is not something that should keep us up at night.

The challenge comes with convincing a large mainstream audience of this. Hype is a powerful communication tool and has a lot of sway. Fear is also fuelled by ignorance. So many different technologies have been placed under the umbrella term of AI, there is a disconnect about the reality of the technology – no one quite understands what it is, and visions of extreme worst-case scenarios have filled the gap.

Our supplementary research into the views of consumers is certainly suggestive of a knowledge gap: 53% of global consumers believe there is not enough education about the role of AI in society and more than a quarter (26%) say they have a poor or no understanding of what AI is. Perhaps as a direct result, less than half (45%) of those we questioned believe that the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects when it comes to the potential of AI.

Who should provide this education? The consumer audience was of the view that this is a shared responsibility across businesses, the government and academia.

The expert panel we engaged for this report clearly understands the value of AI – and the difference between hype and reality. But this understanding now needs to extend beyond experts of the field. If the technology industry is to build public trust in the technology, we need to address this knowledge gap fast. This could mean working with both the government and education providers to correct the misunderstandings surrounding AI, which is being fuelled by hype. As part of this communications challenge, companies need to convince both consumers and other organisations that AI is not about remote science-fiction style gadgets in 2050, it’s about tools, now, today, that can drive productivity, boost profitability and — done correctly — help everyone live better lives.

Our full report, Artificial Intelligence & Communications, The Fads. The Fears. The Future can be viewed here.