Consumers expect to lose control of AI – Ericsson

Consumers will use AI to make life-changing decisions in the next decade, but the vast majority believe they will not have full control of the technology, according to the results of a new survey by Ericsson.

Mary Lennighan

June 4, 2024

4 Min Read

The Swedish equipment maker's latest Consumer Lab report identified ten key AI trends for the 2030s on the back of a study of 6,500 early adopters in 13 global cities; the trends range from generative fashion and AI shopping assistants to human digital twins and AI-assisted childcare. It's all interesting stuff. But arguably the most noteworthy element of the report is the fact that early AI users are very wary about how it will all pan out.

Survey respondents were split into two camps, defined – in a pretty self-explanatory way – as 'AI hopefuls' and 'AI fearful.' But regardless of which category they fell into, well over half of respondents said they believe they will not have full control of how AI will impact upon their lives in the 2030s.

Only 37% of AI hopefuls believe they will have full control over how the technology is used in their lives in the next decade, while the figure falls to 27% among AI fearfuls.

Nonetheless, hopeful or fearful, they all believe AI will have a significant impact in the 2030s. Just over half of AI hopefuls – 53%, to be exact – said they will try to use the technology as much as possible, compared to 26% of fearfuls, a disparity that Ericsson highlights as being an indicator of fragmentation in usage patterns.

Bearing in mind that these survey respondents are already classed as early adopters, those usage patterns could be very difficult to predict for the next few years.

As an introduction to its report, Ericsson notes that OpenAI's ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users just two months after launch and hit 100 million weekly users by November 2023. That second figure, plus the fact that other tech giants are entering the market, show that even at this early stage AI is not a passing fad but rather a service with growing user engagement that ultimately will change people's lives.

Indeed, 95% of those early adopters polled said they believe at least some aspects of the 10 trends identified by the report (listed below) will become a reality. The respondents were asked to evaluate 120 digital service ideas across 15 areas.

" clearly indicates that early adopters expect AI to have a significant role in their future daily life. Consumer expectations are important as this also has implications on network traffic capabilities to handle related future data use per device," said report author Michael Björn, Head of Research Agenda, Ericsson Consumer & IndustryLab, bringing the findings back to Ericsson's core business of selling network kit.

"Another insight is the concern that early adopters have, including the biggest supporters of AI, about the future control of AI in their personal lives. This shows a need for companies working with AI to address the concerns of consumers as they develop solutions," Björn said.

Data control is a big element here, with 'data disorder' one of the 10 key trends in the report. High percentages of AI hopefuls believe regulation will be the answer, in one shape or form, to the sacrifice of data ownership and loss of personal integrity. 76% of AI hopefuls believe new laws will allow citizens to opt out of the intensive scrutiny brought about by a data-hungry world. Ericsson describes this figure as "promising." It could equally be termed optimistic.

"In this chaotic future, personal identity could become an endangered species. As many as 74% of the AI fearful dread a world where AIs clone every aspect of you – your voice, your face, your signature, and more," the report warns.

That's the sci-fi movie version of AI, and one that no longer seems at all far-fetched, when you put together all the smaller elements of the technology designed to make life easier or more entertaining: AI-based clones of your friends in films; AI-based learning for children; AI-powered governance; and boosted work performance are all listed in the report, and all come with both positive and negative results.

However, there is one key thing that humans could do with AI in future years and still thrive: ignore it.

"The report also flags the possibility of AI becoming so influential in decision making that ignoring certain AI insights could be a key to success," Ericsson says.

Around 58% of survey respondents believe that the innovators of the 2030s will be the people who dare to swerve the advice given by AI. They could well be right. If the robots allow themselves to be ignored, that is.

Here are the top ten trends highlighted in the report.


About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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