AI bots are wooing Britain … for better or worse

MORE than a quarter of UK adults have used generative AI, according to research from accounting group Deloitte, and about four million of them have deployed it for work.

The survey of 4,150 UK adults found that 26 percent of 16- to 75-year-olds — 13 million people — have used AI tools such as chatbots, and one in 10 respondents uses them daily.

Generative AI refers to tech that produces realistic text or images in response to human prompts, available and hotly debated since the launch of ChatGPT last November. The pace of adoption exceeds that of voice-assisted speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa.

AI bot
13 million people have used AI tools such as chatbots, and one in 10 uses them daily

“It took five years for voice-assisted speakers to achieve the same adoption levels,” said Deloitte partner Paul Lee. “It is incredibly rare for any emerging technology to achieve these levels of adoption and frequency of usage so rapidly.”

Derek Mackenzie, CEO at skills provider Investigo, said the use of chatbots and voice-assisted technology was becoming normalised. “It’s vital that businesses have credible plans in place to fully capitalise on this trend,” he said. “The skills crisis has left many companies struggling to build a robust talent pipeline, and getting access to staff with deep technical knowledge in areas like AI remains a major challenge.

“The technology brings huge benefits such as saving time and money, but also challenges like managing operational governance and evolving job roles.” Forward-thinking businesses should be planning for these changes, building links with specialist trainers and providers to have the skills in-house, he believes.

Tech expert Sjuul van der Leeuw, CEO of Deployteq, says the figures revealed in the study “underline the fact that generative AI is already playing a crucial role” in daily life. “This trend is set to continue indefinitely,” he said. “From transforming public services, shaking up traditional business models and turbocharging the creative industries, it will continue to have a major impact on our economic growth.”

It was vital that nobody was left behind, he said, and “this means having the right training and governance policies in place” so the technology could be responsibly used.

The Deloitte survey found that of those who had used generative AI, more than four in 10 believed it always produced correct answers. In reality, it frequently comes up with glaring factual errors, something that is seen as its Achilles heel.

ChatGPT became a sensation due to its ability to generate human-seeming responses to a range of queries in different styles, producing articles, essays, jokes, poetry, and job applications in response to text prompts.

It was swiftly followed by Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, based on the same system, Google’s Bard, and Claude 2 from US firm Anthropic. Image generators have also taken off; a realistic-looking picture of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket, produced by US start-up Midjourney, caused an internet stir.

But the ability of such systems to mass-produce convincing text, image, and voice at scale has led to warnings that they could become tools for mis- or disinformation campaigns.