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It seems almost impossible to have a conversation about emerging enterprise tech without bringing up artificial intelligence (AI). But according to a newly published report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), AI remains decidedly more talk than action where most executives are concerned.

PwC’s 11th annual Digital IQ survey of thousands of business, experience, and technology executives in over 60 countries found that only 53 percent are planning AI investments and use cases. About 19 percent said they have at least one use case and a plan, and a measly 4 percent said that they’ve successfully implemented the technology.

Furthermore, only a minority of respondents — 19 percent — are convinced that AI will be disruptive in the years to come. Executives think that the internet of things (IoT) will have ultimately have a larger impact on their businesses’ bottom lines (30 percent) than AI or robotics (12 percent).

This outlook seems to contradict other reports that show optimism for AI in the enterprise.


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In Deloitte’s second “State of the AI in the Enterprise” compendium last month, 42 percent of executives said they believed that AI would be of “critical importance” within two years. Indeed, 58 percent of those surveyed reported already having adopted some form of machine learning, and 80 percent said that their AI investments had already resulted in a financial return.

By some estimates, the enterprise AI market will be worth $6.14 billion by 2022. But to be fair, transparency and privacy concerns have hindered uptake.

A separate survey by PwC in April found that a general lack of trust threatens to hamper the growth of assistants like Alexa and Siri, for instance. In a survey of 1,000 executives, one out of four said they only use voice assistance at home, citing a lack of privacy in public.

Respondents to the Deloitte report expressed similar reservations. More than 20 percent ranked “cybersecurity vulnerabilities” as a key issue, while 43 percent rated “making the wrong strategic decisions based on AI/cognitive recommendations” as among the top three. And about 39 percent cited the failure of AI in a mission-critical or life-and-death situation as one of their fears.

Some of the concerns about AI stem from predictions about its job-stealing potential.

The World Economic ForumPricewaterhouseCoopers, and Gartner have forecasted that AI could make redundant as many as 75 million jobs by 2025. And the McKinsey Global Institute this year forecasted that the portion of jobs calling for “low digital skills” may fall to 30 percent in 2030 from the current 40 percent, as jobs that require higher skills increase to 50 percent from 40 percent.

Those fears might be misplaced, however. According to McKinsey, labor market shifts will result in a 1.2 percent increase in gross domestic product growth (GDP) for the next 10 years and help capture an additional 20-25 percent in net economic benefits — $13 trillion globally — in the next 12 years.

As analysts for Deloitte recently wrote: “While development and adoption of many smart devices may take time, incumbents must prepare for a tipping point when smart products could render traditional ones obsolete … Devices with embedded intelligence will eventually become ubiquitous in commercial settings and consumers’ lives, enabling entirely new levels of performance and efficiency, [and] companies should begin now to game out the potential impact of [AI] on their business and their industry to position themselves to reap the benefits.”

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