AI Becoming A 'Risk Factor' As Consumer Behavior Changes

Artificial intelligence is forecast to generate $3.9 trillion in business value by 2022 -- up from $1.2 trillion in 2018, according to the research firm Gartner.

The technology remains on track to improve customer interactions and cost reductions and bring in new sources of revenue for search companies like Google and Microsoft, but interestingly, as of 2018, a report from Sentieo, per The Wall Street Journal, estimates that 55 companies now mention AI in the risk-factor section of their annual reports filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Risk factors also take into account consumer behavior. The risk-factors section of the filing, as the WSJ notes, includes a variety of reasons for possible changes that could impact business. The WSJ article identifies several ways to mitigate that risk, but they are not relevant to the risks that search marketers at retail and consumer brands would have.

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AmTrust Financial Services, Carlyle Group, and Overstock are among the growing list of companies with an annual shareholder report that now includes artificial intelligence as a risk factor.

Risks such as giving Google and Bing greater control over ad and content placement based on machines being able to crush numbers and data are only part of this journey.

Brand marketers need to understand how AI affects their business. Machines that become part of the thinking process will lead to a dumbed-down workforce because humans could lose the skills they once had.

Sometimes smart machines can make humans compliant. Machines also sometimes can make decisions that humans do not understand unless they have the capability to learn more than the machine -- such as not only where, but why it a particular place is the best choice to surface that ad.

“AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, and bad food were not,” Tesla Founder Elon Musk said in 2017 during an interview with WPRI News in which the two talked about regulation. “They are all harmful to a set of individuals, but not society as a whole. AI is a fundamental existential risk to civilization. I don’t think people really appreciate that.”

A report released this month by Baobao Zhang and Allan Dafoe at the Center for the Governance of AI -- part of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute -- studies how AI impacts society. The survey, conducted between June 6 and June 14, 2018, analyzes the results of 2,000 U.S. adults and their attitude toward AI.

The findings suggest that though the effects of AI can be positive, the technology entails risks and disruptions that require attention. In fact, more Americans support than oppose AI.

About 41% somewhat or strongly support the development of AI. Some 22% somewhat or strongly oppose its development. Many express a neutral attitude, at 28%, while 10% say they do not know.

Gender, education and income have a major impact on what consumers think. Support for AI is greater among those who are wealthy, educated males or who have experience with the technology.

Consumers with four-year college degrees, at 57%, have a higher affinity for AI, followed by 59% with an annual household income above $100,000, 56% of those who have completed a computer science or engineering degree; and 58% of those with computer science or programming experience. 

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