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AI fears abating among UK consumers, suggests OpenText survey

UK citizens seem to be curbing their fears of artificial intelligence technology, according to survey research by OpenText

UK citizens appear to be losing their fear of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, according to survey research by OpenText.

The enterprise information management software supplier has repeated a survey it conducted in 2017 among 2,000 British consumers.

While the 2017 survey revealed that a quarter of the UK consumers asked believed their job could be replaced by AI software in the next 10 years, this dropped to around one-in-five (21%) in the 2018 survey.

Some 60% of respondents did not think a robot would ever take over their jobs, suggesting a greater inclination to work alongside – and not be replaced by – “robot” technology.

Although this was a general population survey, OpenText cloud services vice-president Savinay Berry said job-loss fears are rife among IT and business professionals.

“Among our customers, on the business and the IT side, you’d be surprised at how automation provokes visceral reactions,” he said. “For example, if you deploy to the cloud and take out steps in deployment that were there before, you can see people getting defensive.

“And if you take that up a level to predictive insights, you maybe don’t need to pay a business analyst $50,000 to look at reports and derive insights from reports. Or someone $30,000 to do data entry. So the fears are real, but you need to help people see it’s not about taking their jobs away, but helping them do their jobs better and focus on things that are more important for their company”.

The survey looked at attitudes to AI in healthcare. It found only 26% had faith in AI systems reaching correct diagnoses. Meanwhile, 21% believed AI technology can offer a quick diagnosis, and the same number said they would appreciate not having to take time off work to visit a doctor.

Only 11% said they would trust the diagnosis of an AI system more, or just as much, as a doctor’s diagnosis.

Many of those surveyed – 45% – said they were not aware of having used AI software in the past year. This is despite the fact that many will have used mapping functions or health apps on their smartphones.

In regards to the growth of AI, 18% pronounced themselves “nervous”, while 17% said they were “excited”.

Read more about attitudes to AI

OpenText has an AI product named Magellan, which rivals IBM’s Watson.

“AI technology is here to stay,” said the firm’s UK vice-president Mark Bridger. “Businesses are turning to digital transformation, healthcare organisations are embracing medical technology innovations and, as a result, AI is filtering into every aspect of our lives.

“It’s positive to see that more of us are looking at the benefits this will bring to the workplace and our wider lives – enabling greater efficiency while also taking away some of the strain of day-to-day tasks.”

Bridger added: “While sci-fi films can distort the impact of AI technology, it’s time to stop viewing AI as an existential threat to our livelihoods and our health. AI will transform the workplace, as menial tasks – and some non-routine jobs – are digitalised through robotics and process automation, but it cannot replace people.

The true value of AI will be found in it working alongside humans to ease the pressure at work and across the healthcare system, as well as making our lives easier.”

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics

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