AI has consumers conflicted—most think companies will take it too far

by | Sep 5, 2018 | Public Relations

Benevolent force for good or existential threat to humanity? A new research report measuring consumer attitudes around artificial intelligence (AI) reveals how consumers really feel about the growing pervasiveness of AI in society and their comfort level with rapid advances in the technology’s use.

The new report from CX consultancy Elicit finds consumers conflicted as they weigh the benefits and risks of AI in the wake of exciting innovations in self-driving cars and robotics, alongside recent news stories about intelligent personal assistants gone rogue and companies’ reported misuse of personal data and predictive technologies.

AI has consumers conflicted—most think companies will take it too far

“AI can be a transformative way for companies to interact with their customers and deliver better experiences. But an important perspective was missing in this conversation—how consumers feel about the use of AI in their everyday lives and by companies they engage with,” said Mason Thelen, Elicit CEO, in a news release. “We thought it was important to address this and to provide that perspective to companies.”

The study, Artificial Intelligence and the Very Real, Real-World Anxiety It Causes, confirms that consumers understand and appreciate the ways AI improves their lives—to a point. The 14-page report provides insights for organizations developing AI applications as consumers expand on how they feel companies are employing the technology today and whether they might go “too far” in the future, their privacy concerns and their rising apprehension when AI acts too independently of human input.

AI has consumers conflicted—most think companies will take it too far

Among the findings:

  • Respondents’ general level of comfort with AI is divided. A majority (58 percent) land somewhere between feeling that AI has the ability to serve purposes that are good and feeling that it is a threat to humanity.
  • One third of consumers worry that AI won’t stay focused on mundane tasks and leave the real thinking to humans. While Westworld-like scenarios seem pretty remote, just under half of consumers (43 percent) state that we’re not too far out before AI becomes a concern in our society.
  • Consumers have a healthy skepticism about what companies will do with AI. A majority of Americans (seven out of 10) think some companies will go too far with AI, and another six out of 10 are concerned with how companies will use AI and the information they have to engage with them.

“The conveniences and enhanced experiences delivered by AI are unlimited, and most people at an intellectual level understand that and welcome it,’ said Lisa Brink, senior director of strategy, in the release. “The anxiety and unease is created when AI begins to make decisions on its own without human input. Companies can leverage this insight to address some of those barriers and make these advances more palatable to consumers.”

Download the full report here.

A nationally representative sample of 697 adults completed the survey in spring 2018.

AI has consumers conflicted—most think companies will take it too far

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter