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What We Got Right and Wrong About AI in 2019

At Sklar Wilton, we’re always looking for ways to help our clients futureproof their businesses and their people. We recognized early on that AI was more than just a trend or buzzword – that it would reshape how our clients and their consumers live every day. So, in 2017 and 2018, we conducted proprietary primary research among 1000 Canadian adults to understand their opinions and uses of artificial intelligence. Today, with the launch of ChatGPT and various other AI platforms dominating the cultural zeitgeist, we thought it would be fun to revisit some of our study results and predictions and see how they hold up today.

In 2019, we then wrote blogs about how AI was disrupting the alcoholic beverage industry and our predictions on how it would revolutionize healthcare for seniors. AI has come a long way in just a few years, transforming various industries and changing how we live and work. From self-driving cars to personalized recommendations, AI’s growth and impact have been remarkable and controversial.

Here are some key takeaways from our writing from this time and a look at where we got it right (and wrong) when looking at all the possible outcomes:

Prediction: AI will improve personalized recommendations and help solve choice paralysis.

Our results showed in 2018 that 56% of people surveyed felt AI could provide recommendations on what to purchase, and 51% said they would be comfortable with AI arranging their travel plans. Based on this, we concluded that AI could help solve choice paralysis in various industries.

How we got it right

Today, choice paralysis or information overload is more prevalent than ever, and AI has the capabilities to manage it. A recent survey tells us that over three-quarters of Canadian respondents now feel that information overload contributes to their everyday stress. This may explain why most Canadians (72%) are comfortable with companies using AI if it means they’ll receive better and more personalized service.

How we got it wrong

As people become more exposed to AI personalization possibilities, concerns about how we get there arise. While many are in favour of it for now, 68% of them caveat that by admitting that they don’t understand the technology well enough to know the risks. Another study suggests that while some are comfortable with the concept, half don’t know how they feel about it. The takeaway for retailers intending to use AI for personalized recommendations would be to incorporate transparency in the process so that people feel more aware of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Prediction: AI will make businesses more profitable and eliminate barriers to growth.

Our 2018 study revealed that 63% of people believed AI could improve Canadian companies’ productivity and profitability, and 48% believed AI could liberate people from tedious work. This led us to believe that AI could be an essential tool for ensuring that day-to-day tasks aren’t a barrier to growth.

How we got it right

Recent data tells us that companies using AI on a continual basis experience better year-over-year year growth than other companies. Experts have also estimated that AI could increase corporate profits by $4.4 trillion a year globally based on increased productivity. If used correctly, AI has proven to help companies remove inefficiencies. It would be a valuable solution for almost any company in at least one facet of their business.

How we got it wrong

The human touch will always be essential for many reasons, so an over-reliance on AI can be dangerous. In the ethical sense, companies must consider their balance of automation with human labour. Consider the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike that hinges largely on the tension surrounding the excessive use of AI in replacing humans. Failure to address these ethical concerns could damage a company’s reputation and alienate customers. In a practical sense, a lack of human oversight and a failure to identify potential errors or biases in AI-generated results could lead to disastrous outcomes.

Prediction: AI will provide us with meaningful companionship and help to manage loneliness.

In 2018, about 48% of seniors said they would feel comfortable if AI provided personal companionship and a whopping 81% believed AI would increase accessibility for people living with disabilities. Knowing this, we predicted that AI would play a vital role for seniors and anyone looking to manage loneliness and well-being.

How we got it right

The adoption of AI chatbots has accelerated in recent years and continues to grow, coinciding with rates of loneliness. The global chatbot market is expected to reach USD 3.99 billion by 2030. However, most of its growth has been seen in the retail environment rather than the healthcare sector. Here, 62% of consumers would prefer to use a chatbot rather than wait for human agents to answer their requests, and 90% of businesses report significant improvements in the speed of complaint resolution from using one.

How we got it wrong

There is no clear answer on whether AI has positively or negatively influenced loneliness. It has been stated that a lack of regulation on AI chatbots can lead to unhealthy relationships and even manipulation, and frequent use of AI is associated with loneliness and insomnia. Compared to our 2019 numbers, it seems that interest in chatbots in a medical context has dropped, with only 47% of adults now interested, and another study suggesting that most Americans say they would be uncomfortable with relying on AI in their health care. This year, the persistent news, misinformation, and passionate discourse around AI certainly could have contributed to a spiked distrust. Regardless, it’s clear that the implementation of AI companionship, especially amongst our more vulnerable populations, must be approached with care and regulation before pushing it on an unsure cohort.

It’s amazing how much can change in just a few years, but the relentless drive of AI continues to show itself in our day-to-day lives. Some contexts and viable applications will continue to shift, and we look forward to monitoring how our relationships with AI evolve alongside them. This will be a topic that we continue to visit due to the massive implications it holds to disrupt the future of work and our lives.

We make it our business to stay on top of the trends that impact your business. Through our proprietary Disruption Audit and Trends Analyses services, we help decode what is happening in our world to give you a more fulsome view of the future and chart a clear path forward with actionable business strategies. Learn more or email us at [email protected]

About the Author

Daniel works at the cross-section of data and culture in an everlasting effort to make sense of the world around us. He’s particularly keen on seeking out modern signals and how they ripple into the future. Outside of work, you’ll find him in the woodshop or enjoying a movie at the local cinema.