As AI Investment Rises, Worker Skepticism Remains a Challenge

By: Jeff Bertolucci| - Leave a comment

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a mainstream technology, with the market for AI technologies gaining traction worldwide. And early adopters are well-positioned to receive the largest revenue improvements and cost reductions from AI investment.

According to a new study from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), AI is rapidly evolving from an IT-focused technology to one with wide usage across the enterprise. In a survey of 835 executives from global companies with average revenues of $20 billion, TCS found that around 70 percent of respondents are currently using AI for IT-specific purposes like detecting security breaches and delivering automation. But by 2020, nearly a third (32 percent) of companies surveyed believe AI’s biggest impact will be in sales, marketing or customer service.

Optimism Abounds in AI Investment

TCS learned that global executives are overwhelmingly bullish on AI investment. Four out of five respondents see AI as essential to competitiveness, while nearly half call it a transformative technology.

“Given the increasing digital disruption across every industry and the public sector, AI should become a key and integrated component of an organization’s strategy,” said K. Ananth Krishnan, TCS chief technology officer, in a TCS press release.

Job Impact

While many critics fear AI will lead to massive job losses, the reality is more complicated and (hopefully) positive. While AI is automating jobs, it’s creating new ones as well.

The TCS study found business executives expect net reductions of 4 to 7 percent in AI-impacted job functions like customer service and HR by 2020. However, companies with the biggest AI-related revenue and cost improvements see the need for at least three times as many new jobs in each function by 2020, as compared to companies with the smallest AI improvements.

Security First

North American companies were the top investors in AI in 2015, with an average per-company spend of $80 million, TCS found. Europe was second with $73 million, followed by Asia-Pacific with $55 million and Latin America with about $51 million.

Across all regions, AI investment was largest in security. Nearly seven out of 10 companies surveyed currently use AI to detect and prevent potential cybersecurity threats. Future developments include the creation of cognitive systems that continually learn and make reliable decisions based on vast amounts of big data, thereby boosting confidence in AI systems as trusted advisers.

Humans are Concerned

Despite the TCS study’s generally positive outlook, organizations will still need to address workers’ skepticism and fear concerning AI.

A recent study by Atlassian, an enterprise software company, found 29 percent of respondents said they trusted AI to complete a task, 35 percent moderately trusted AI to finish a task, and 36 percent trusted the technology slightly or not at all, InformationWeek reports. By comparison, 51 percent of respondents said they trust a team member to complete a task, even if that person is a new addition.

Given these concerns, it’s no surprise that one of the TCS study’s top factors for generating benefits from AI and cognitive systems is to get employees and managers to trust AI’s advice.

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About The Author

Jeff Bertolucci

News Writer

Jeff Bertolucci is a Los Angeles-based journalist specializing in technology, digital media, and education. His work has appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance, InformationWeek, PCWorld, Macworld, The Saturday Evening Post, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications.