New Study Reveals America’s AI Hopes and Fears

Northeastern University and Gallup Inc. partnered to study Americans' hopes and fears about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact work and life.

The study also sought to determine how U.S. higher education should respond in preparing students for the future of work. This report is a follow-up to Northeastern University's president Joseph Aoun's 2017 book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.    

In the last nine months, I've reviewed every major industry and government report on AI for my new book on leading in the fourth industrial revolution [more on that to come!].

In my independent opinion as a researcher and practitioner, I truly believe that the Northeastern-Gallup report is one of the most significant reports on AI produced to date. [Disclosure: I am a leadership and organizational development subject matter expert with Gallup. Opinions on this blog are my own]. 

Here's why I recommend downloading the Northeastern-Gallup report: 

  1. The report provides a research basis for how real working people think AI will impact their work and life. Overall, 76% of Americans anticipate that AI will fundamentally impact the way that they work and live in the next decade. 
  2. The report provides an accurate and balanced portrayal of both the optimism and anxieties that Americans feel about AI. For example, of those Americans who anticipate AI's impact, 76% believe AI's impact will be positive and 23% believe it will be negative
  3. The report also tells us why Americans think AI will have a negative impact on the workforce and economy. For example, 63% of respondents believe AI will create inequality (69% of 18-35 year olds believe AI will create inequality). 
  4. The report provides insights and guidance for educators and HR leaders interested in creating a robot-proof workforce.

While the report leaves many questions about the future of work unanswered, it does what all good research should do: find answers to the questions that it posed, and raise more important questions. 

Eduction and Robot-Proof Careers

Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun has written an important book on the subject of higher education's role in the digital age (down my cheat sheet for Joseph Aoun's book, Robot-Proof). 

Here's what the report reveals about American's fears and hopes about AI as it relates to their job security and education. 

  • 51% of Americans feel that they will need additional training to be successful in the AI age;
  • But, only 43% of Americans are confident that they'll get the training that they need.

I call this 8% gap between "needing" and "getting" the fear gap. The good news is that the fear gap seems to be manageable. So the fear-mongering, doomsayers claiming that the robots are going to take all of our jobs [Note: I take a balanced view on this issue], may be over-exagerating matters just a bit. 

In reality, only about 23% of American's fear losing their job to AI. While this number is about half of Oxford's Martin School's estimate that about 47 of jobs are at risk, it's still a sizable proportion of the study sample.

Guidance for Educators & Learning Professionals

Here are a few actions to take: 

1. Download my cheat sheet on Joseph Aoun's book Robot-Proof or buy his book. I read this book well in advance of this report, as I describe in this video, and I believe it is an essential read for educators and adult learning professionals. Aoun's discussion of "Humanics" is a wonderful guide for the curriculum of the future.

2. Go check out Northeastern's interactive dashboard and learn more about America's hopes and fears about AI. 

3. Click on Gallup.com and download the full report for FREE Optimism and Anxiety: Views on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education's Response.

Start a future-focused conversation with someone today. Do good work and I'll see you in the future! 

Chris Groscurth, Ph.D. is founder of the blog leadership4ir.com. Attitudes, opinions, and affiliations on this page are that of the author and do not reflect the views of any of the affiliated organizations.

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