One in four Britons fear AI taking their job

December 12, 2017 | Share this article

New research from Initiative has shown that UK consumers see AI as a potential threat to certain aspects of their lives, but no match to human relationships. Continue reading to find out what Ben Haley, Head of Insights at Inititaive, discovered when conducting this study into Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI has been a staple of science fiction writing for over a century. As we accelerate towards its establishment as ‘science fact’, it demonstrates that, whilst seeing its potential, Britons are concerned about the impact it could have on their lives.

Interviewing a nationally representative sample of 1500 Britons,we uncovered that almost half of UK citizens (42.3%) think that AI will take jobs in the future, with around a quarter concerned that it will take their own job.

Interestingly, there are some niches within the office and executive world showing more concern than others. Highest on the list are those working in the well-paid finance and insurance sectors, a third (33.3%) of whom are worried about being replaced by machines. Second most concerned are workers in the manufacturing sector (29.9% think AI will take their jobs), whilst in the construction sector only 12.6% of workers expect AI to have any impact on their job.

According to the study, when people think of the positives of AI, they see it as a great alternative to undertake dangerous (40.3%) and mundane tasks (35.4%), rather than tasks that would benefit from more rational decision-making (15.7%).

These figures suggest that many people regard AI as merely a form of robotics, and fail to understand that it potentially has the ability to learn and to make decisions, which would further impact the workplace and affect the role for us humans.

On the other hand, this study indicates that 41.6% of Britons believe AI to be a poor substitute for human relationships – preferring for it not to take on personal and emotive capacities around relationships, education, entertainment and advertising.

It seems that people are happy with the presence of AI in their lives, as long as it’s not too lifelike or intrusive. So chatbots and simple robots that cook our dinners and keep us secure are ok, but ones that try to act like humans, or threaten our jobs, are not.

Brands and advertisers should take note of these concerns around AI, and should focus on tapping into people’s emotions and on propagating culture – our shared ideas, customs and behaviours – through their communications efforts. It is areas associated with culture – such as education, entertainment and our roles within society, that people are least keen for AI to play a role within.

Of course we have a responsibility to embrace new technology, but we also need to understand people’s concerns around it, and through marketing, to propagate and nurture those things that consumers want from fellow humans, not machines.

Click here to read the full feature on The Drum.