Artificial intelligence (AI) permeates every aspect of modern life, with companies deploying it to increase efficiency, personalize services and improve the user experience. Companies perceive the use of AI as beneficial, but what do everyday people who are impacted by the technology think? The National Technology Readiness Survey has tracked opinions on the topic since 2018 and reveals some interesting shifts in opinions. As we discuss, there is a rising optimism about AI, particularly for consumers, along with evidence of a surge of AI’s surprising widespread impact in the workplace.
AI has gained increasing acceptance over the past few years. In 2018, the public was evenly divided in whether they were more “fearful” or “hopeful” about AI, but by 2022, the positive views outnumbered the negative by almost two-to-one. Younger adults (age 18 to 34) are the most positive (70% hopeful).
AI affects people in two ways – as consumers and as workers – and some may feel the technology is positive in one area but negative in the other. In our most recent survey, 37% of the public felt that AI makes products and services “more desirable” by making them more responsive to consumer needs, while 31% felt it made them “less desirable” by creating privacy and security issues. Younger consumers (under age 35) are much more positive than their seniors. Between 2020 and 2021, consumer sentiment became more positive, but from 2021 to 2022, opinions became more negative. Consumers have become increasingly confident in their opinions over the past few years, so it is possible that the awareness of AI in services is increasing but being met with dissatisfaction.
When we recently asked about the impact on jobs, 33% of the public thought AI will augment humans in jobs, creating new job opportunities. Positive views are almost aligned with negative views, with 34% feeling AI will replace humans, exacerbating unemployment. This view has changed since 2021, when the positive views exceeded the negative views. People under age 35 hold the most positive outlook on workforce impact and are more certain in their views (i.e., fewer indicating it is “impossible to say”).
When we ask workers directly about the impact of AI, we find there is a recent and substantial impact on their jobs. In 2019, only 24% of workers agreed with the statement “Artificial Intelligence is important for performing my job.” However, this rose to 32% in 2020 and again to 43% in 2022. This nearly doubling of impact in two years means that AI is affecting a wide range of workers. AI is not just impacting the lives of accountants, medical professionals, and airline pilots, but also those who work in factories and warehouses and drive trucks.
The perceived impact of AI is highest among workers who are younger, male and have college degrees. However, even a third of workers with a high school degree or less feel AI affects their jobs, showing the widespread impact of the technology.
Workers hold mixed views on the future impact of AI on their jobs. Half (51%) believe that AI will not affect their jobs. Over a quarter of workers feel their job is at risk of being replaced by AI, either in the next 5 years (10%) or in the longer run after 5 years (20%). About a fifth (19%) believe that their jobs will be complemented by AI and made more secure. Younger workers and males are more likely to perceive a short or long-term risk to their jobs. The perception that AI would have no impact has dropped slightly since 2019, from 62% to 51%.
AI is clearly having an impact on our lives as consumers and workers. The public can only speculate on the future impact of AI, but when we ask about how AI affects jobs today, there is clear evidence that big changes are occurring. Many pundits have decried the danger of AI displacing workers, particularly those with fewer skills. We are more hopeful about AI and predict that AI will create jobs by increasing demand for products and services that cost less and can better meet buyer needs, while making work more rewarding and easing labor shortages.
Learn more about TechQual, our measurement approach to consumer technology adoption.
About the Study: the National Technology Readiness has tracked technology and e-commerce trends since 1999. The survey is co-sponsored by Rockbridge Associates, Inc. and the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. The most recent wave was conducted in June 2022 and is based on an online survey of 1040 U.S. adults sampled at random from a consumer research panel. Results are weighted to match census characteristics. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Charles Colby, Founder and Chief Methodologist
Updated January 2023