Has a Global Pandemic Changed the World's View of AI?
Before COVID-19, technology and AI were predicted to grow the global GDP by up to 14%, adding roughly $14-15 trillion USD to the world’s economy, but was at least 10 years away according to the Gartner Hype Cycle.
This will be incredible growth, but something that was at least 10 years away according to the Gartner Hype Cycle.
That’s a rather long time for something which can be largely adopted now.
It’s not because the technology isn’t there. Drone deliveries are the preferred delivery method in the French Alps and its predicted 80% of businesses are using chatbots to deal with customer service questions.
Even Amazon launched a checkout-free store in 2018, which use smartphone-controlled gates to charge a customer’s account for the items they walked out with.
No matter what industry a business is in, there’s a piece of software that can help speed up their process.
So why is it taking 10 years to hit this peak?
10 Years of Building Trust in AI
One reason that AI will take a long time for businesses to adopt is due to budget.
Last year, The CMO survey stated that the most significant adoption of AI in the marketing industry was from companies with a revenue of $500 million to $1 million USD. Which means SMEs with smaller budgets might not have the capital to invest in something like AI.
But one of the most important influences on AI adoption rate is trust. We’ve had our screens full of killer robots and AI systems in films like The Terminator, iRobot and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It’s an image that’s recognizable and repeated throughout popular culture with a simple message: AI cannot be trusted.
It’s not just fiction that promotes this narrative. Newspaper headlines and posts also warn of technology as an unstoppable force designed to take our jobs. It’s no wonder that some businesses haven’t adopted AI yet.
That is until COVID-19 hit.
Has COVID-19 Changed the Way We Use Technology?
For some businesses, technology & AI platforms are no longer an option, they are a necessity for keeping operational.
The Adecco Group — an HR company — spoke about how they implemented DocuSign to process hiring and payroll for employees remotely. Before COVID-19, this operation could only be carried out in the office.
Now, they’ve eliminated this need and allowed employees to work as normal from home.
Zoom, the videoconferencing app, has grown users from 10 million to over 200 million during the pandemic. It’s used by all manner of businesses, including the fitness industry for online classes.
The communication app Slack also saw a massive increase in use. CEO Steward Butterfield took to Twitter to document how quickly things changed for the company during the pandemic.
In just over a week, Slack users surged from 10 million to 12.5 million.
More and more businesses are investing in technology that they wouldn’t have otherwise used, such as ultraviolet-light-disinfection robots to clean and sanitize workspaces.
In addition, fast-food chains like McDonald's have been testing robots as cooks and servers to help maintain social distancing inside their kitchens and help the chain reopen its doors.
After COVID-19, this technology may be the new normal.
One Bad Experience to Break Our Trust in AI
Although more businesses have upped their technology use, it might not all be good news. Zoom is a great example of this, as news broke that that data was being sent to China, people’s video calls being leaked online, and Mac and Windows had serious privacy vulnerabilities when using the app.
It’s not the news you need when trying to build trust in technology.
It could be enough to spark another series of articles about how much we can really trust AI. About how safe our data really is and if businesses are going to see the likes of another Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal.
It might be enough to push the AI adoption rate even further beyond the initial 10 years.
Is This the Start of Our Techno-Future?
COVID-19 has been the fuel to ignite a mass adoption of AI and technology. And to help reduce the burden on struggling businesses, many pieces of software have been made free or have exclusive offers during the pandemic.
It’s one way to build trust and get people on board during the time they need it the most.
But ultimately, only time will tell what the world will look like after COVID-19 If businesses are adopting and seeing good results from AI, adoption could be sped up exceptionally.
But if businesses can’t find the solutions they need, suffer from any data breaches or need to cut back on operational costs, AI will be the first to go.
At the minute, there’s no way to tell which way it will turn.
We’ll just have to wait and see.