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Technology

Optimism, Scepticism and Guilt: Emerging trends in the application of Artificial Intelligence

Optimism, Scepticism and Guilt: Emerging trends in the application of Artificial Intelligence

Richard Fayers

Richard Fayers, Senior Director, Data & Technology at Slalom

The notion of artificial intelligence (AI) as a key tenet of society has been around for some time. Since the introduction of Chat GPT and other consumer-facing AI products into the marketplace, employers and employees alike have clamored to understand the benefits and best uses of AI for their respective individual sectors. 

It has become apparent that AI has already and will continue to change not just the way that we work but also wider society, whether that be the way we interact with each other, the way we perform are jobs, or the way businesses run. 

Despite this, growing trends have emerged regarding the application of AI. Both scepticism and optimism are rife, owing to competing levels of knowledge around the use of AI but also because of the relatively early stages of business and employee understanding. 

Optimism, Euphoria, Pessimism and Guilt 

AI provides exciting yet challenging times for many businesses. The technology poses the prospect of revolutionising the way we work through automating processes, reducing human error and maximising productivity. 

However, with this comes the understandable anxiety that AI could replace jobs that currently exist. It is important to remember though that generational shifts in technology have happened throughout history and rather than erasing the need for humans, have shifted and altered our working priorities, offering people the opportunity to upskill, pivot and utilizing their existing skillset within the same field but in different ways. 

AI must be embraced as a tool that allows employers and employees alike to enhance jobs rather than replace them, and its endless possibilities do indeed provide a new dawn for the business community. 

However, in places, optimism around the opportunities AI presents should be tapered. A phenomenon being dubbed “AI euphoria” has swept across many sectors of the economy whereby business leaders are unilaterally implementing technologies without the understanding of potential consequences. Whether it be bias, incomplete data or ethical concerns, AI must be introduced with a coherent plan whereby it benefits business interests and its employees if it is to be fully and successfully utilised. 

On the other end of the scale, recent reports have suggested that there has been a trend among younger workers to suffer from what is being described as “AI Guilt.” Data has shown that 36% of Gen Z employees feel guilt when using AI in the workplace and feel they may be relying too heavily on applications such as ChatGPT, which 1 in 3 believe will hamper their critical thinking skills. 

This guilt is also reflected in the number of people expressing concern about the future of AI. While Gen Z adults believe it poses no immediate threat to their jobs, 61% believe that in the next decade it could replace their roles. This pessimism is not reserved for those at the start of their working life either, almost 60% of Brits fear their jobs could be replaceable by artificial intelligence. 

The importance of an AI Strategy 

The concept of optimism, scepticism and guilt around the use and application of artificial intelligence centres on the importance of an AI strategy. Research by Slalom has highlighted that only 6% of businesses have a clear and coherent strategy in how best to use artificial intelligence and education and training will be crucial in bridging the divide between businesses who are actively using AI and those who have an effective strategy in place to leverage its use. 

The development of an AI strategy can be a complex process for many businesses but is crucial in maximising productivity and ensuring a competitive edge. However, it is critical than any AI strategy should provide solutions to address areas of scepticism, guilt, mismanagement, risk, and enhance optimism – driving benefits and ensuring appropriate usage.

Without clear understanding of how models have been created and through poor usage, AI has the potential to lead to biased outcomes. Considering this, a strategy must be devised by a diverse set of individuals who are able to mitigate the risks of racial, gender and other forms of AI bias (while also ensuring outcomes are not factually or historically incorrect). This aspect speaks to a wider set of concerns regarding the implementation of AI which is risk. A robust risk management system must be in place before any form of AI solution is applied, with not just a technological but also a human-centred lens at its heart, able to identify where risks may exist that the technology is unable to predict. 

The future of work is unpredictable in many ways; however, it is guaranteed that artificial intelligence will play a crucial role within it. Whether individuals, businesses or the wider society are optimistic or pessimistic about the role it will play, it is vital that understanding and education is put at the heart of its future use. 

AI has the ability to enhance the workforce rather than replace it, maximising productivity and automating processes that allow employers and businesses to spend time on more meaningful tasks. However, if the full potential of AI is to be exploited, strategies must be put in place in order to mitigate risks. 

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

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