Communicating AI: 4 myths busted

AI is coming, like it or not. Following an AI workshop, we break down four common misconceptions about AI and about how this disruptive technology will change our lives

According to a recent study by Fleishman Hillard, 26% of global consumers admit that they have either a poor or no understanding of what artificial intelligence (AI) is and does, and 53% believe education about the role of AI in society needs to improve.

As professional communicators, it is important that we understand what we’re talking about when it comes to the oncoming AI tide, so that we can lead our clients through these revolutionary times.

Communications professionals will be tasked with fighting hyperbole on both sides as we wait to see what technology will become a reality and what will stay in the pages of science fiction novels.

Here, following an exciting AI workshop we held at Specialist, we clear up four myths that often muddy the waters when it comes to AI.

1. AI is the same as Machine Learning

These two terms are often interchanged, but actually mean slightly different things.

AI is the broad concept of advanced technology allowing machines to carry out tasks in a ‘smart’ way. It doesn’t necessarily mean the machine needs to learn – they could be intelligently hard coded – but it is still AI.

Machine Learning is a branch of AI, and refers to the application of AI that allows machines to learn beyond what they are coded to do, for example, building their own models of pattern recognition.

So when we discuss AI, it’s important we distinguish the two.

2. AI means robots will take our jobs

There’s no denying that our world is increasingly dependent on technology. Since the industrial revolution, many manual jobs have been gradually replaced by machines.

Now we face the possibility that, thanks to AI, many more jobs will be replaced with smart machines, from taxi drivers to call centres. What’s to stop them taking all the jobs?

That said, Artificial General Intelligence (machines capable of independent human thought and behaviour) is still a long way off, and, contrary to many doom-laden commentators, there’s still a demand for human interactivity in certain customer-facing roles, which employers ignore at their peril.

While most if not all human jobs will be affected at least partially by AI, the key will be how well the two interact together.

Additionally, experts argue that AI will create even more jobs than it replaces, freeing us up from repetitive tasks to allow us to concentrate on more creative tasks.

3. AI means the end of security and privacy

In a post-GDPR world, data security is an incredibly hot topic. And while companies are having to become watertight on their data sharing policies, 56% of global consumers already believe that AI needs more regulation and restrictions.

With AI gradually being incorporated into many sectors – from finance to healthcare – as well as in our homes – from kitchen appliances to home security – consumers are rightfully wondering what the consequences will be of allowing smart machines access to every aspect of our lives.

However, again, AI is also being used to enhance surveillance and security. From the small-scale – iPhones being unlocked by thumb or even facial recognition – to the larger – security services being manned by intelligent bots.

As communicators, we need to be aware that consumers are more concerned about their privacy than ever before and tackle those worries head on by proactive communication of privacy policies.

4. AI advances won’t affect me if I just ignore them

Taking this stance will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

AI is predicted to disrupt nearly every business sector with some, such as financial services and healthcare, expecting a particularly dramatic impact.

Financial services will benefit from call centres that are never busy and remarkably human chatbots that can deal with increasingly complex requests. Meanwhile, in healthcare, AI-supported services are set to free-up medical staff, offer critical data-based personal insights for faster more accurate diagnoses and treatments, and widen access to medical care worldwide.

Elsewhere, self-driving cars, while pulling in some scary headlines, will only become more advanced, having an effect not only on the automotive industry but also infrastructure, engineering and tourism.

In agriculture, AI and machine learning will have an enormous impact on productivity — in disease recognition or selecting the best seed to plant in a farmer’s field using an automated algorithm.

Opportunities lie ahead
While this is all a lot to take in – and a bit mad to comprehend – it also allows for a wealth of opportunities from a creative communications and business perspective.

The next step is to work out how we use the emergence of AI to the greatest advantage for us and our clients and how we communicate their message clearly to consumers.

Read Fleishman Hillard’s report: Artificial Intelligence and Communications, The Fads. The Fears. The Future.

Sophie Jones    
Commissioning Editor