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Generative AI has regularly made headlines in recent months, but to what extent are people really using the technology in their work?
Quite a lot, it turns out: 46% of all employees have “experimented” with generative AI at least once new survey of 12,800 working people in 18 countries conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), one of the “big three” major global consultancies next to McKinsey & Company.
“It’s a very large number, but I’m not entirely surprised either, because of how we’ve seen the user numbers of these generative AI products grow like never before,” said Steve Mills, a general manager, partner and chief AI officer. ethics officer at BCG said in an interview with VentureBeat.
More impressively, 26% of respondents use generative AI several times a week.
AI optimism is on the rise
And in perhaps the best news yet for AI programmers, companies and tool providers, the BCG report found that the percentage of respondents who saw AI optimistic grew as they used the technology more, while their concerns about the technology decreased.
More than half (62%) of respondents who said they were regular users of Generative AI ranked optimism as one of their top two sentiments, compared to just 36% of non-users. Overall, respondents’ optimism about AI rose 17% from the last time BCG surveyed people about the technology (five years ago), while concern dropped from 40% in 2018 to just 30% this year.
As the report states, “Optimism grows with familiarity, and respondents who regularly use generative AI are much more optimistic than those who have never tried it.”
Leaders so far prefer AI over frontline workers
There are big differences in acceptance and attitudes towards the technology depending on the employee’s level within their organizational hierarchy.
BCG divided the 12,800 respondents into three main categories: frontline workers, managers, and leaders. While the report does not specify how many employees are in each category, it does state that the respondents were selected to reflect the average distribution of 85% to 10% to 5% of frontline workers, managers and leaders, indicating that most of the respondents were frontline employees.
The majority (80%) of leaders said they regularly use generative AI tools, compared to just 20% of frontline workers.
Nearly two-thirds (62%) of leaders expressed optimism about AI, but only 42% of frontline workers share this sentiment, revealing a significant gap between leadership and their workforce. With reports from AI already to replace some jobsshouldn’t it really come as a big shock that frontline workers are the most concerned and the least optimistic about the technology.
Broad support for AI regulations
The survey also showed broad support among all employee groups for AI-specific regulations. The majority (79%) of respondents said such regulation is necessary, with the Middle East having the highest regulatory demand at 89% and Germany the lowest at 64%.
The report concludes with three key recommendations for leaders. First, it encourages organizations to create spaces for responsible experimentation with AI. Second, it highlights the need for ongoing upskilling to help employees adapt to the ways AI will transform their jobs. Finally, it underscores the importance of establishing a responsible AI program as employees seek guidance and reassurance that their organizations are approaching AI ethically.
As AI continues to evolve at a rapid pace, this report underscores the need for companies to not only embrace the technology, but also ensure that it is used ethically and responsibly. It is a call to action for leaders to bridge the gap in AI sentiment and understanding within their organizations and actively participate in shaping the emerging AI regulation.
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