How AI Perceptions Have Changed in the Last Decade [Comparing New & Old Consumer Data]

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way in the last decade, from a futuristic concept to a mainstream reality. But how have consumer perceptions of AI evolved over this period? To find out, let‘s take a deep dive into two surveys conducted by HubSpot in 2017 and 2023, respectively.

2017 Perceptions: Cautious Optimism

Back in 2017, HubSpot surveyed over 1,400 consumers worldwide about their views on AI. The results showed a mix of awareness, interest, and apprehension:

  • Only 37% of respondents said they had used an AI tool before. However, a follow-up question revealed that 63% had actually used AI without realizing it, via tools like Siri or Alexa.
  • 86% were interested in trying AI tools in the future, suggesting a high level of curiosity and openness.
  • 40% had no preference between being helped by a human vs. an AI in a customer service setting.

These findings paint a picture of a public that was intrigued by AI‘s potential but still somewhat unfamiliar with its real-world applications. There was a sense that AI was on the cusp of mainstream adoption, but not quite there yet.

2023 Perceptions: Mainstream Adoption

Fast forward to 2023, and HubSpot‘s latest State of AI Survey tells a very different story. The survey, which polled over 1,350 business professionals, reveals a landscape where AI has become deeply embedded in the daily work of many industries:

  • 35% of marketers, 54% of bloggers, and 41% of business leaders report using AI tools regularly.
  • 80% believe AI can help them spend less time on mundane tasks like data entry and scheduling.
  • 78% think AI can enable them to focus more on the core aspects of their role.
  • 57% of customer support specialists believe AI can help personalize the customer experience.

These numbers show that AI has truly arrived as a mainstream business tool. No longer a novelty or a nice-to-have, it‘s now seen as a critical enabler of productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

Comparing 2017 vs. 2023: What‘s Changed

So what‘s behind this dramatic shift in AI perceptions? A few key factors stand out:

  1. Increased awareness and understanding. In 2017, many consumers were using AI without even realizing it. Today, there‘s much greater familiarity with AI and its real-world applications, thanks in part to the ubiquity of tools like chatbots and virtual assistants.

  2. Proven business benefits. The 2023 survey results show that AI is delivering tangible value for businesses across a range of functions, from marketing and content creation to customer service and data analysis. As more success stories emerge, skepticism is giving way to enthusiasm.

  3. Maturing technology. AI has made massive strides in the last few years, with breakthroughs in natural language processing, computer vision, and other key areas. Tools like GPT-3 and DALL-E have pushed the boundaries of what‘s possible, making AI feel more powerful and valuable than ever.

  4. Changing workforce needs. With the rise of remote work and the acceleration of digital transformation, businesses are under pressure to automate and optimize wherever possible. AI is seen as a key enabler of this, helping workers be more productive and focus on higher-value tasks.

To put some numbers to these shifts, consider the following:

  • The global AI market is expected to grow from $387 billion in 2022 to over $1.3 trillion by 2029, a CAGR of nearly 20% (Fortune Business Insights).
  • 50% of companies reported that adopting AI helped them increase revenue in 2021, up from just 28% in 2020 (McKinsey).
  • 79% of consumers are willing to share data for a better experience, up from 66% in 2017 (Salesforce).

These statistics underscore the growing embrace of AI by both businesses and consumers alike. As the technology continues to mature and deliver real-world results, perceptions are likely to keep shifting in a positive direction.

The Future of AI Perceptions: Predictions and Implications

Looking ahead, it‘s clear that AI will only become more central to the way we live and work. As adoption continues to grow and the technology becomes more sophisticated, we can expect perceptions to evolve in a few key ways:

  1. From novelty to necessity. As more businesses reap the benefits of AI, it will increasingly be seen as a competitive necessity rather than a nice-to-have. Companies that fail to adopt AI will risk falling behind their peers.

  2. From narrow to broad applications. Today, AI is often associated with specific narrow domains like chatbots or image recognition. In the future, it will be seen as a general-purpose technology that can be applied to virtually any business function or industry.

  3. From efficiency to innovation. While much of the focus today is on using AI to automate and streamline existing processes, the real long-term value will come from using it to enable entirely new products, services, and business models. As this shift occurs, perceptions of AI will become even more positive.

  4. From black box to explainable. One of the biggest challenges with AI today is its "black box" nature – the difficulty of understanding how it makes decisions. As techniques like machine learning interpretability mature, AI will become more transparent and accountable, helping to build trust.

Of course, realizing this vision will require proactive effort from businesses, policymakers, and society as a whole. Some key priorities include:

  • Responsible AI development. As AI becomes more powerful, it‘s critical that it is developed and deployed in an ethical, transparent, and accountable way. This means embedding principles like fairness, privacy, and security into the design of AI systems from the ground up.

  • Workforce education and upskilling. To fully harness the potential of AI, workers will need to be equipped with the skills to use it effectively. This will require significant investment in education and training programs, as well as a cultural shift towards continuous learning.

  • Public engagement and dialogue. To build trust in AI, it‘s important to engage the public in ongoing dialogue about its impacts and implications. This means being transparent about both the benefits and the risks, and involving diverse stakeholders in the development and governance of AI systems.

Actionable Takeaways for Businesses

For businesses looking to stay ahead of the curve on AI, here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Start with a clear strategy. Before diving into AI adoption, take the time to develop a clear strategy that aligns with your overall business goals. What problems are you trying to solve? What value do you hope to create? How will you measure success?

  2. Focus on quick wins. To build momentum and buy-in, start with AI applications that can deliver clear, tangible benefits in the short term. This could be anything from automating a manual process to personalizing the customer experience.

  3. Invest in talent and culture. To truly harness the potential of AI, you‘ll need to build a culture that embraces experimentation, learning, and collaboration. This means investing in the right talent, providing ongoing training and development, and creating an environment where innovation can thrive.

  4. Prioritize transparency and ethics. As you deploy AI, be proactive about communicating its use to customers and stakeholders. Develop clear guidelines and oversight mechanisms to ensure that AI is being used responsibly and ethically, and be prepared to answer tough questions about its impact.

  5. Stay agile and adaptable. The AI landscape is changing rapidly, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement, and be prepared to pivot your strategy as new challenges and opportunities arise.

Conclusion

The last decade has seen a remarkable shift in perceptions of artificial intelligence, from a futuristic concept to a mainstream business tool. As the technology continues to mature and deliver real-world results, it‘s clear that AI will only become more central to the way we live and work in the years ahead.

But realizing the full potential of AI will require more than just technological progress. It will require a concerted effort from businesses, policymakers, and society as a whole to ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a responsible, ethical, and transparent way.

By staying ahead of the curve on AI adoption and prioritizing trust and transparency at every step, businesses can position themselves for success in the age of AI. The future is already here – it‘s up to all of us to make sure it‘s a future we can believe in.