Opinion
Emerging Technologies

Closing the AI confidence gap will help us harness its full potential

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has great potential across sectors and industries — to make sure we harness it effectively, it's critical that we close the AI confidence gap.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has great potential across sectors and industries — to make sure we harness it effectively, it's critical that we close the AI confidence gap. Image: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Harold Pradal
Chief Commercial Officer, BSI
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This article is part of: AI Governance Summit
  • Artificial Intelligence's use and expansion is a near-inevitability in many industries around the world — and it holds great promise in all of them.
  • But many people today remain skeptical of AI, an attitude largely fuelled by its novelty and how opaque the technology can be.
  • To close this confidence gap in AI, and use it to its greatest potential, building trust is essential.

It’s strange to think it has been just 12 months since ChatGPT launched, given how much generative AI is talked about today. In fact, media coverage shows a 286% rise in coverage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) year-on-year. But while last year can be viewed as the tipping point when AI went mainstream, the real AI story is much deeper.

For starters, AI is already deeply embedded in our lives. BSI’s Trust in AI Poll found that 38% of people globally knowingly use AI daily at work, while three-fifths expect to use it by 2030, rising to 86% in China.

Embracing this technology has the potential to accelerate progress across society, in areas ranging from healthcare and sustainability to food safety. That also means there are critical questions to consider around how we build trust in AI and apply the guardrails to ensure it shapes our future in a positive way.

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Closing the AI confidence gap

From UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Elon Musk, we’ve seen frequent warnings about the challenges of AI. Caution is undoubtedly advisable, as with any new technology. Still, it’s also worth focusing on the possibilities AI can open up, thanks to its ability to process good quality data in innovative ways.

AI offers huge opportunity in areas spanning medicine to construction and even the fight against modern slavery. Take, for example, the UN Environment Program's World Environment Situation Room, which uses AI to perform near-live analysis and make predictions for the future based on factors such as changes in glacier mass.

Another example of AI as a force for good comes from healthcare. Three years ago, the world was on the cusp of the first COVID-19 vaccinations; a game-changer for people worldwide. What people rarely focus on is that Moderna used AI and robotic automation to produce around 1,000 mRNAs, a molecule fundamental to the vaccine’s development, each month.

No wonder, then, that 56% of people BSI polled said they were optimistic about the prospect of AI reducing hospital waiting times and more than half were excited at its ability to improve the accuracy of diagnosis.

Nearly 4 in 10 people report they are already using AI in their job. That figure is set to grow.
Nearly 4 in 10 people report they are already using AI in their job. That figure is set to grow. Image: BSI, Shaping society 5.0

AI: a net-positive for society, used right

Around the world, people identify the good AI can bring to society — 55% globally think AI can help us create a built environment that is more energy-efficient, while 46% support its use to make the food system more sustainable. Yet despite this, BSI’s poll revealed a confidence gap, starker in Europe and the US than China or India, but relevant everywhere.

This can be traced to numerous things, not least a lack of trust in the technology and a general hesitation of the unknown. This is reasonable, given there may be personal data and high stakes involved, especially when you consider how little we truly understand AI. Indeed, many of us unknowingly use AI-enabled tools every day, from phones to curated playlists — 57% said they didn’t know chatbots for customer service used AI. It’s difficult to have confidence in something that you do not fully understand, and this is where room for improvement lies.

While we may be hesitant, we nonetheless expect AI to be commonplace by 2030, in automated lighting (41%), automated vehicles (45%) or biometric identification for travel (40%). A quarter (26%) expect AI to be regularly used in school. It’s now a race against time to close the confidence gap in order to power AI’s benefits for society.

We can do this in many ways, not least via transparency and greater communication about its uses. This starts with enhancing AI competency, while simultaneously building an expectation that human involvement will always be needed if we are to make best use of it. It is not AI or humans alone, but a partnership to drive progress.

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The other component is putting in place robust guardrails to protect society and ensure AI remains a force for good. Having frameworks in place to govern its use can help build trust and ultimately boost confidence. Indeed, it is striking that three-fifths globally want international guidelines on AI.

This indicates the importance of collaboration to ensure AI’s safe and ethical use and engender trust. There is no one solution. But alongside legislation such as the EU AI Act, there is an opportunity to draw on agreed standards and principles of best practice, such as the forthcoming AI management standard, which can evolve alongside the technology.

These could pave the way to ensure, for example, that data is not misused and that the inputs being applied to AI tools are equitable. What’s key is that now is the moment for us to collaborate globally to balance the incredible power of AI with the realities of using it in a well-executed, well-governed way.

AI is already being used on a mass scale, but many people may not necessarily be aware they are using it.
AI is already being used on a mass scale, but many people may not necessarily be aware they are using it. Image: BSI, Shaping society 5.0

Harnessing AI's potential

Ultimately, AI has the potential to be a transformational technology, one we can harness to drive societal progress. Fear of the unknown could stymie this, meaning trust is the critical factor. In BSI’s poll, 74% said they needed trust for AI use in medical devices and 71% for financial transactions. Developing knowledge of AI and raising awareness of how it is already being used for good can help build this trust, freeing people to make great use of this technology.

Even while expressing concerns, we are wise to the opportunities AI represents. 29% of people see AI as a tool to protect the planet, while 28% say a top priority is for AI to improve medical diagnosis and 22% picked making society fairer. The possibilities offered by AI are immense.

Closing the confidence gap and building the appropriate checks and balances can enable us to accelerate AI adoption and realize its potential as a powerful force for good.

Further information about BSI’s Trust in AI Poll and essay collection can be found here.

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