Maybe We’re Not So Afraid Of The Robot Apocalypse After All

A new survey finds global consumers are seven times more likely to see artificial intelligence as a positive impact on society.

Sooo . . . about that impending robot apocalypse . . .


Despite the best efforts of movies like Ex Machina, Morgan and Avengers: Age of Ultron, a new survey found that people from around the world largely see artificial intelligence having a more positive than negative impact on their lives and society in general.

Communications firm Weber Shandwick has just published its “AI-Ready or Not: Artificial Intelligence Here We Come!” report, conducted with KRC Research, for marketers, surveying 2,100 consumers across five global markets on AI, its many uses, how they see it evolving, and how comfortable they are with that development. But don’t go tearing up your plans for an unconnected cabin in the woods just yet, because even though consumer survey respondents were seven times more likely to see the sunny side of AI, a full one-third of respondents also admitted to knowing nothing about AI at all.

The survey also interviewed 150 marketing executives (primarily CMOs) in the U.S., the U.K., and China responsible for the oversight and execution of marketing or branding activities at their organizations.

On the consumer side, 77% of respondents would like AI’s development to accelerate or remain at its current pace, two-thirds or more trust AI with handling medication reminders, travel directions, entertainment, targeted news, and manual labor and mechanics. While 50% or more trust AI to provide elder care, health advice, financial guidance, and social media content creation, and 40% or more trust AI to provide legal advice, cook, teach, police, and drive.

It should come as no surprise that marketers are keenly aware of AI and its potential. About 68% of CMOs in the study reported that their company is currently selling, using, or planning for business in the AI era, and 58% believe that within the next five years, companies will need to compete in the AI space to succeed. Perhaps most surprisingly, 55% of the surveyed CMOs expect AI to have a greater impact on marketing and communications than social media ever had.

For Weber Shandwick’s executive vice-president of creative technology and strategy Patrick Chaupham, this means marketers need to be ready to not just integrate AI into their business and strategy, but also prepared to educate consumers. “Much like with social media, businesses will have to reckon with how they put AI at the center of their business and marketing strategy to actually deliver value to their customers, rather than just tacking it on for the sake of AI,” says Chaupham. “As much as consumers were positive about AI, their understanding still needs to be broadened and deepened. Consumers’ first impressions of AI are robots and we know that AI is much more complex than that.”


That means marketers will have to figure out how to talk about AI in a way that spotlights its benefits, and in language consumers will actually understand.

“Right now a lot of the conversation about AI takes place in tech and academic circles, not to and with the average consumer,” says Chaupham. “The trick will be to speak in the voice of the consumer and not to jargon up the conversation. The discussion needs to be about how AI will improve lives, not how it works. And since actions speak louder than words, as businesses deliver value to customers’ daily lives through AI, that education and communication will take place with the companies who are doing it right.”

Read the full report here.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.