Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are already widely used in workplaces across many industries. From smart energy monitoring systems, where machine learning algorithms contextualize data captured by sensors, to customer service, where chatbots learn and adapt to better understand and interact with customers, AI is quietly proliferating in everyday business operations.
Despite perceptions that employees fear being replaced by robots, workers not only accept, but in fact, embrace AI's role in the workplace. A new survey from AI software company Conversica found that a majority of Americans view AI as a necessary and beneficial inevitability.
Moreover, 75 percent of workers surveyed believe those who fail to embrace AI will ultimately be left behind. Respondents said those who reject AI in the workplace will:
- Miss out on job opportunities (40 percent)
- Be replaced by people with AI skills (35 percent)
- Be inefficient and less productive (32 percent)
- Not complete quality work quickly (28 percent)
AI's growing global adoption
AI is anything but under the radar in the business community. A McKinsey study performed in June found that in 2016 leading tech companies invested as much as $30 billion in AI globally, with 90 percent of that capital directed toward research and development and deployment. The remaining 10 percent was focused on acquisitions.
Outside the tech industry, adoption is slower but still ramping up. Of 3,000 surveyed executives across 10 countries and 14 different economic sectors, 20 percent said they currently use AI-related technology at scale. Startups invested as much as $9 billion in AI development and adoption in 2016.
The bulk of all investment in 2016 (66 percent) was focused in the U.S., with China coming in at a distant second with 17 percent.
Still, there remains uncertainty over how quickly mass adoption will occur. Right now, most of the progress is concentrated in tech giants, rather than the market at large. Demand for AI tools is rising, but far from ubiquitous. Moreover, the technology itself remains limited. AI is only capable of solving basic, repetitive tasks and is often seen as a supporting tool – not a replacement – for human labor. Common-sense tasks or those that require finesse (rather than a clumsy AI-powered robot) are still in the realm of humanity.