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April 19, 2021updated 10 Mar 2022 5:28am

AI is perceived as disruptive, but expectations need a reset

By GlobalData Thematic Research

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the most polarizing emerging technology, according to GlobalData’s Emerging Technology Sentiment Analysis Q1 2021. It is perceived to have the most disruptive potential, but, at the same time, it is also the technology that many executives feel more negative towards compared to last year.

Two-thirds of survey respondents expected either significant or slight disruption from AI. Although this was down from 71% in the previous quarter, it still leaves AI eight percentage points ahead of cybersecurity, the second technology on the disruption ranking.

As more companies incorporate AI into their processes, more people will be exposed to AI’s shortcomings. This is likely to affect sentiment towards the technology. Q1’s sentiment analysis shows early signs of just that, as more than a fifth of respondents said they felt more negative towards the technology than this time last year. This was the most of any of the seven technologies featured in GlobalData’s quarterly poll.

Even though executives who participated in our polls place AI in the number one spot for disruptive potential, only 42% say that disruption was already taking place. This contrasts with more established technologies such as cybersecurity and cloud computing that score above 50%, even though it represents a step up for AI in the disruption timeline compared to Q4 2020.

AI vendors need to be alert to negative sentiments

The fact that negative sentiment is increasing while most businesses have not yet experienced AI-driven disruption should put vendors on alert. Expectations towards AI need a reset. The first concern of AI vendors should be to make it clear to their clients that AI is not magic and that no technology is capable of solving all their problems. AI can be a powerful tool for business only when the data used is high-quality.

Moreover, the algorithms that power AI are written by actual human beings that bring their flaws, limitations, and biases to their work. AI needs human supervision, and vendors should educate clients about that need. Leaving AI unsupervised can lead to reputational costs that will ultimately impact businesses’ bottom line.

Processing power is increasing and becoming more democratized, making complex AI workloads available to a growing number of companies. As more businesses are exposed to the technology, vendors should be prepared to educate their clients on the best practices for making the most of the technology’s potential.

GlobalData monitors sentiment towards emerging technology every quarter. AI is one of seven technologies included in our polls. The others are 5G, blockchain, AR, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and IoT.

GlobalData’s quarterly Emerging Technology: Sentiment Analysis Q1 2021 report is based on six polls that received 2,250 responses from executives across 18 business sectors. The polls were conducted online between January and March 2021 and were designed to help us understand the current sentiment of the business community towards emerging technologies and evaluate how sentiment is likely to evolve over the near future.