Artificial intelligence (AI) and similar technologies are set to transform business, consumption and work. Concerns about the destruction or displacement of jobs are growing. According to some estimates, more than 40% of current jobs could be lost by decade or two.
The most interesting predictions implicitly assume near-immediate adoption of labour-eliminating technologies by companies looking for quick efficiencies and cost savings. But technology adoption is likely to be much more uneven. Some industries will quickly adopt these technologies; many will move slower. Some of these variations in adoption rates will reflect differences in the transition costs faced by businesses. Integrating AI technologies into existing processes is often a complex task. Companies will need to find and train workers with the right skills to complement these technologies. Business leaders must also have confidence in the reliability of new technologies.
The fear factor
However, technology adoption rates are not only influenced by economic calculations. Barriers to adoption also include social norms and attitudes of potential consumers and other users. Witness the response to a recent string of high-profile AI technology failures. Many AI-powered advances deliver on the promise—or, for some, the threat—to profoundly change the way we live and work. The change naturally inspires anxiety, but recent high-profile accidents involving AI-controlled devices self-driving cars and airliners may have increased the fear factor. More than 70% of drivers are too afraid to ride in self-driving vehicles, up from around 60% in 2017, according to the AAA annual membership survey. The organization attributes this increase to publicity associated with accidents.. But it’s potentially a harbinger of how the technology may go beyond the change in attitude required for its widespread adoption, especially in consumer markets. Notably, this fear was not limited to older drivers, with 64% of millennials reporting a similar dislike for these vehicles. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of US adults also say they would feel less safe sharing roads with self-driving vehicles while walking or biking.
Driverless cars are just one example of consumer anxiety. According to a recent study by Pew Research Center. (Whether this number is considered high or low may depend on your own perspective). A higher number (76%) said they would not want to apply for a job where computer algorithms were used to assess and select candidates. Of course, this latest statistic is likely to reflect broader concerns about labor market prospects in a world with advanced AI. A clear majority (65%) of Americans believe AI will eliminate jobs currently held by humans within the next five decades. Fair one in four believe that technology will lead to the creation of “new, better paid jobs”.
Social attitudes will clearly influence how quickly companies can take advantage of new technologies. A good example here is the response to driverless trucks. Experts and companies seem to agree that the future of logistics will rely on driverless trucks capable of moving autonomously from hub to hub. Waymo, Google’s former self-driving vehicle project, has recently started experimenting with self-driving vehicles to deliver goods and transport goods. But Waymo vehicles were attacked and vandalized as they moved through the streets of Phoenix. While few turn to crime, this behavior may reflect broader concerns many Americans have about the role of AI and how it will affect workers and families in the future. Companies will need to overcome this resistance by building trust and highlighting the benefits to society. However, at least in some cases, this is likely to prove difficult.
Standards as brakes
The frictions faced by businesses in terms of direct transition costs (economics) and possible reluctance of consumers to engage (social norms) mean that the AI revolution and the related effect on the labor market will not won’t be finished anytime soon. Invention and implementation typically happen on different timelines, and survey data suggests companies still have a long way to go.
Since this change will likely unfold more slowly than originally anticipated, we have an opportunity to better prepare. We should act now to get the Strategies in place by invest in educationpromoting innovation in retraining, and strengthening our social safety net. This, in turn, should enable us to face the future with confidence rather than dismay.