Sceptical consumers are already using GenAI every day

iPhone mobile 2Consumers may be worried about generative AI and its human impact but the vast majority are already embracing the technology as tech companies increasingly embed AI tools into their apps and products by stealth, meaning they use it every day.

So says a new Forrester report, entitled The State of Consumer Usage of Generative AI, which maintains that while the universe of GenAI use cases is vast, consumer knowledge will continue to be non-existent or fragmented.

Even so, AI tools are omnipresent, with the likes of Adobe Photoshop, Google’s Gemini or Circle to Search, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, Samsung’s Galaxy S24, and many more, reinforcing Forrester’s 2023 prediction that half of global firms will experiment with customer-facing GenAI this year.

US consumers are ahead of those in other countries due to sluggish regulations. For GenAI, consumer usage is higher and consumer attitudes are more positive in the US than in the UK, France, Germany, or Italy.

With the AI Act, companies operating in the EU are being forced to follow new rules and regulations which mean they have to adopt AI technology in reliable ways, while the US does not have any federal regulations around consumers’ AI usage.

Large language models (LLMs) are also based on available training data, and much of that data is in English, inherently making the output of GenAI platforms more effective for English-dominant countries.

Tools such as Bing Chat, ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini (formerly Bard), OpenAI’s DALL·E, and Snapchat’s AI chatbot dominate usage, but there are many smaller, unbranded native GenAI tools in major platforms that consumers may not attribute to GenAI technology, such as WhatsApp’s AI stickers or Spotify’s podcast translation.

Even so, when questioned about about GenAI’s output quality and use by companies, consumers lack trust in the accuracy of the results that the technology produces and the ways that companies use the technology and data that consumers enter.

Based on Forrester’s December 2023 Consumer Pulse Survey of online adults who had heard of GenAI, only 29% agreed that they would trust information from such a system. Even more significant is concern about transparency, with 73% of GenAI-aware online adults agreeing that companies should disclose when they use the technology to interact with them.

Consumers are also split about how GenAI will impact the future, although many appreciate its utility. Among online adults in Forrester’s December 2023 Consumer Pulse Survey who had heard of GenAI, 50% agreed that it would make it easier to find information online and 43% agreed that it would make it easier to learn new things.

There is less consensus, though, about the technology’s long-term effects: 45% of online adults agreed that GenAI poses a serious threat to society.

Forrester principal analyst and vice-president Thomas Husson said: “As is often the case with poorly understood tech that promises to change the world, consumers worry about its ethics and human impact, yet a vast majority of these sceptics will use – and love – generative AI in 2024, whether they know it or not. Like it or not, know it or not, GenAI will seep into people’s lives seamlessly and invisibly.”

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