Consumers and AI – What They Really Think

A lot of people interact with artificial intelligence daily without even knowing that they do. Others do it on purpose, asking Siri or Alexa to help them do things or advise them on what they should order. However, even though there’s a general march towards consumers using artificial intelligence, not everyone who uses it or is aware of its application is okay with its presence in their lives. One of the biggest problems that AI in business has is a lack of transparency. Combined with an innate fear of the unknown and tons of science fiction novels and films that outline the “inherent threat” of AI, and you have a populace that isn’t too happy about having non-humans to interact with.

A Concerning Trend for the Everyman

When computers had first come out, the idea of having machines that ran society was the go-to for science fiction for some time. However, with 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9001, artificial intelligence became the proverbial boogeyman. Today’s society has AI that’s intelligent enough to string sentences together, and given the right input, navigate an obstacle course. The defining factor in these experiments has been that they have taken place under controlled laboratory conditions. As the continued testing of self-driving cars has shown, AI in the real world is still in its initial phases of learning and cognition. For now, humans can still outthink an AI.

A Boon for Business

The thing with AI and machine learning, especially, is that it’s an iterative process. With each new generation of AI, they get a little smarter and efficient. Companies have seen the need for AI in several areas, most predominantly in customer service. 90% of respondents in a recent survey done by the MIT Technology Review stated that they were already using AI to improve customer experience. Business is already teaching its AI to judge situations and respond to them better. Fewer calls are being transferred to a human respondent because the AI is slowly getting smarter by learning from its supervisors. But what do the people who those businesses serve think?

Consumers Divided

As expected, there’s a divide between consumers about whether they enjoy having businesses use AI or not. According to a survey done by Elicit, as much as 75% of consumers think that companies will push AI too far. 58% of respondents fall in the bracket of people who believe AI can be either good or may become a threat. A third of respondents mentioned that they believe that AI will go beyond mundane tasks and become smarter than humans. Customers are impressed by the efficiency, of course. Still, they are humans, and the ethical ramifications of replacing workers with AI, coupled with their innate fear of the technology, make for bad bedfellows.

Humanity is The Key

The efficiency of interaction between a person and an AI makes for quick work, but it also removes any human element in that interaction. Humanity forms a significant part of what consumers look for in their interaction with a business. For now, companies that use AI are relatively safe since there’s no worry about their consumers realizing their first point of contact is an AI. With supervisors being able to handle the specific requests, consumers don’t even need to worry about whether they’re talking to a human or an AI. For success, however, there must be a balance between AI efficiency and good old humanity. The mix depends on each business’s goals for customer experience.