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Artificial intelligence emerging as a force for good

The topic of artificial intelligence is getting a wealth of attention this year, and a new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that businesses and consumers are warming up to the potential benefits of AI.

The PwC study “Bot.Me: A revolutionary partnership” looks at the global impact of AI and was compiled from insights from a 2017 event that gathered AI experts and a survey of 2,500 consumers and business leaders. The study looks at the collective views of AI in society today and its future implications.

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Green LED lights and rows of fibre optic cables are seen feeding into a computer server inside a comms room at an office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Vodafone Group Plc will ask telecommunications regulator Ofcom to guarantee that U.K. wireless carriers, which rely on BT's fiber network to transmit voice and data traffic across the country, are treated fairly when BT sets prices and connects their broadcasting towers. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

There are several highlights from this study, including the fact that AI is no longer viewed as primarily a corporate tool to increase automation (and thereby kill jobs). Instead, it is seen as emerging technology that can handle global challenges. Sixty three percent of consumers surveyed said they believe AI will help solve complex problems that plague modern society.

For specifics, survey respondents said they believe AI can help solve such large-scale issues as closing the education gap, finding cures for cancer and other diseases, and solving the gender inequality problem.

Consumers and business leaders are also growing more accustomed to having AI impact their daily lives. Fifty-eight percent said if they were to turn to AI as an assistant in the next five years it would likely be as a tutor, while 22 percent said they would likely turn to AI assistance for a doctor.

Perhaps most importantly, 72 percent of business leaders surveyed said they believe AI will be the business differentiator of the future.

“With a market projected to reach $70 billion by 2020, AI is poised to have a transformative effect on consumer, enterprise and government markets around the world,” the study noted. “While there are certainly obstacles to overcome, consumers believe that AI has the potential to assist in medical breakthroughs, democratize costly services, elevate poor customer service, and even free up an overburdened workforce.”

The study further noted that some technology optimists believe “AI could create a world where human abilities are amplified as machines help mankind process, analyze and evaluate the abundance of data that creates today’s world, allowing humans to spend more time engaged in high-level thinking, creativity and decision-making.”

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