AI optimism, skepticism, and guilt: trends

Applications of AI

Richard Fayers

Richard Faiers, Senior Director of Data & Technology slalom

The notion of artificial intelligence (AI) being an important tenet of society has been around for some time, and ever since Chat GPT and other consumer AI products were introduced to the market, employers and employees alike have been vocal in trying to understand the benefits and best ways to use AI in their respective industries.

It’s clear that AI is already changing, and will continue to change, the way we work, as well as wider society – how we interact with each other, how we get our jobs done, and how we run our businesses.

Nonetheless, there is a growing trend when it comes to the application of AI. The conflicting levels of knowledge about its use, as well as the relatively nascent stage of business and employee uptake, have led to both skepticism and optimism.

Optimism, euphoria, pessimism, guilt

AI brings about an exciting yet challenging time for many businesses: the technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we work by automating processes, reducing human error, and maximizing productivity.

However, this comes with understandable fears that AI might replace existing jobs. However, it is important to remember that generational shifts in technology have occurred throughout history, and rather than eliminating the need for humans, they have reprioritized work, providing people with opportunities to upskill or reorient, and utilise existing skill sets in different ways, even within the same field.

AI should be embraced by both employers and employees as a tool that can enhance jobs rather than replace them, and its endless possibilities truly bring about a new dawn in the business world.

But some optimism about the opportunities AI brings should be tempered. A phenomenon called “AI euphoria” is spreading across many economic sectors, with business leaders unilaterally adopting the technology without understanding the potential consequences. To fully and effectively leverage AI, it must be deployed with a coherent plan that delivers business benefits and employee benefits, including bias, incomplete data, and ethical concerns.

Meanwhile, recent reports suggest there is a growing trend among younger workers to suffer from what has been dubbed “AI guilt.” data The survey found that 36% of Gen Z employees feel guilty when using AI in the workplace, feel they are overly reliant on applications like ChatGPT, and one in three believe it hinders their critical thinking skills.

This sense of guilt is also reflected in the number of people expressing concern about the future of AI: while Gen Z adults believe AI poses no imminent threat to their jobs, 61% believe AI could replace their role in the next decade. This pessimism isn't limited to those just starting out in the workforce, with almost 60% of Brits worried their job will be replaced by artificial intelligence.

The Importance of an AI Strategy

The notions of optimism, skepticism and guilt regarding the use and application of artificial intelligence highlight the importance of an AI strategy: Slalom research revealed that only 6% of companies have a clear, consistent strategy for how to most effectively use artificial intelligence, making education and training key to bridging the gap between companies that are actively using AI and those that have an effective strategy for leveraging its use.

Developing an AI strategy can be a complex process for many businesses, but it is crucial to maximizing productivity and ensuring a competitive edge. However, it is important that any AI strategy address areas of skepticism, guilt, mismanagement, and risk, and provide solutions that increase optimism, promote benefits, and ensure appropriate usage.

If used inappropriately and without a clear understanding of how the models are created, AI can lead to biased results. Given this, strategies must be devised that involve diverse individuals who can mitigate the risk of racial, gender, and other AI bias (while at the same time ensuring that the results are not factually or historically incorrect). This aspect points to a broader concern about the implementation of AI, which is risk. Before applying any form of AI solution, a robust risk management system must be in place that has not only the technology at its core but also a human-centric lens to identify where there may be risks that the technology cannot predict.

The future of work is unpredictable in many ways, but there is no doubt that artificial intelligence will play a key role in it. Whether individuals, businesses, or society as a whole are optimistic or pessimistic about the role of artificial intelligence, it is important that understanding and education are central to the future use of artificial intelligence.

AI has the ability to augment rather than replace the workforce, maximizing productivity and automating processes, allowing employers and businesses to free up time for more meaningful tasks. However, to harness AI's full potential, strategies must be put in place to mitigate the risks.

Slalom is a next-generation professional services company creating value at the intersection of business, technology, and humanity.

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