Employees Familiar with Artificial Intelligence Both Welcome and Fear Its Presence

More than three in four workers are concerned about more surveillance when it comes to the use of AI at work (image FangXiaNuo/iStockPhoto)

More than one in five adults work for firms that are deploying artificial intelligence (AI) have mixed feelings towards the technology, according to an online survey of more than 7,000 people between May 18 and June 6, 2018 in Canada, China, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the US by BCG GAMMA and market research firm Ipsos.

While AI users generally view the technology positively, they also have concerns about its potential effects on their privacy, job security, and economic equality, said BCG.

AI is not coming: It’s already here
AI adoption varies widely among countries, according to survey results. In China, 31% of survey respondents say they work in organizations that already use AI, followed by North America (26% in Canada, 24% in the US) and then Europe (20% in the UK; 18% in Spain, 16% in France, and 15% in Germany).

Adoption also varies by sector, but to a lesser extent, said BCG.

A quarter of the workers in manufacturing say that AI is deployed at their companies, compared with 20% in construction, 19% in retail, and 18% in services. The average rate across private sector organizations stands at 20%, whereas 25% of public sector respondents say that AI-enabled tools and applications are already in their workplace.

Positive view
In workplaces that use AI-powered tools, more than two-thirds of the employees surveyed say the tools have already had a positive impact on their efficiency (75% cite improvements in their effectiveness, 75% in their results, and 74% in how their work is structured), BCG noted.

In addition, respondents said AI has had a positive impact on the appeal of their work (70%), on their level of well-being at work (69%), and on the training courses made available to them (67%), BCG said, adding that a large majority of respondents, regardless of gender, age, or occupation, mention these positive effects.

Big efforts needed to get everybody on board
Despite their generally positive opinions about AI’s impact and outlook, people have serious concerns that companies must address, according to BCG.

Fears and concerns don’t simply disappear when people become familiar with AI-enabled tools, the firm said.

More than three in four people are worried that using AI at work may result in more supervisory control and surveillance in their workplace (82% of people in organizations already using AI think so) while this concern is especially high in China (84%), BCG pointed out.

More than two-thirds of surveyed workers fear that AI will eventually lead to job losses due to a reduced workload (the percentage among employees who already use AI is 76%), survey results indicate.

Many (65% overall, and 71% in places already using AI) are also afraid that AI will dehumanize work, resulting in reduced social cohesion, and foresee AI-related ethical problems with regard to the protection of personal data (64% overall, and 71% where AI is already in place), said BCG.

Sylvain Duranton, global leader of BCG GAMMA, warns against adopting a complacent, business-as-usual attitude toward AI.

“Underestimating the size of the AI phenomenon and being unprepared for the digital transformation could leave organizations at great risk. Individuals and managers need to get ready for the AI revolution—which is already here—and to take full advantage of it for survival and growth. Otherwise, they risk being crushed by the power of the wave,” he said.