You Can Fear It and Still Use It — Why Are So Many American Workers Shy About AI?


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Recently, a study followed over 100,000 workers from the USA, Europe, the UK and India, tracking time spent in various AI applications during work hours. The tracked apps include AI apps such as ChatGPT and Perplexity and AI-enabled tools such as Canva and Bing that have added AI features to their apps.

Here’s how many hours the average worker spent using AI apps by country/region in 2023:

  • USA – 93.6h (~12 eight-hour workdays)
  • UK – 150.1h (~19 workdays)
  • Europe – 175.1h (~22 workdays)
  • India – 241h (~30 workdays)

Moreover, generative AI darling ChatGPT was the most used AI app in all regions — except for the USA, where it came in second to the AI-enabled design tool Canva.

The data, corroborated by other studies, also strongly points to the average US worker being an outlier regarding AI adoption, which raises the question — why? And is it something to be worried about?

Related: Why People Fear Generative AI — and What to Do About It

Why is it a worrying trend?

Much ink has been spilled on how AI is a game-changer for businesses and knowledge workers. For employees specifically, it promises heightened efficiency and productivity across various fields, from content creation and design to business operations and data analysis.

The general consensus is that companies and workers who fail to capitalize on these benefits will inevitably have to give way to those who do. Accordingly, there is a real risk of Americans falling behind the curve unless adoption is encouraged.

Not just in terms of lost efficiency but also knowledge. We’re still in the early stages of the AI revolution, meaning AI will only grow more advanced and capable as time passes. So, understanding the fundamentals of what AI is and how to leverage it can be invaluable in the long term, especially when AI becomes fully ingrained in our way of life and work.

A good analogy is GenZ’s relationship with technology. Having grown up with smartphones in hand, they’re often unfairly expected to be tech-savvy and are even ridiculed when they struggle with some tech tasks that older generations may find self-evident. But this self-evidence comes from having grown up in tandem with the developing technology (What do you mean why is the save button a weird square?!) rather than any innate superior comprehension. Similarly, I expect that being intimately aware of how AI evolves will be advantageous to its users in the future, and early adopters will have the upper hand.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence

On top of all that, prompt engineering — the action of giving AI the best prompt for the intended results — is a skill, and just like any other skill, it must be honed. AI is a tool that must be learned and explored to get the most out of it, and the earlier you set out on your exploratory journey, the better equipped you will be for future challenges.

At this point, one might ask – but what’s the point if AI will take our jobs anyway?

It’s about attitude

Understandably, AI’s disruptive potential and multifaceted capabilities have many workers worried about being made redundant. The public attitude toward AI is grim — nearly half of Americans believe that AI automation may hurt their job security, and three in four expect AI to negatively affect the job market at large, according to Gallup.

Of course, these worries are by no means exclusive to American workers. A public attitude survey by the UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation found that “while AI is expected to produce increased day-to-day convenience and improved public services, apprehensions remain about job displacement and human de-skilling.” French companies and employees are also concerned.

But there’s an outlier – India.

While more than half of Indian workers mirror the growing unease about AI’s potential impact on jobs, it’s paired with optimism about the technology, with 74% excited about the prospect of AI in the workplace. The overwhelming majority view AI as an enabler that can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, quality of work, job satisfaction and overall happiness.

I believe this, namely, attitude toward technology, is one major reason why workers in India use AI over two-and-a-half times more than American ones.

Related: AI May Not Take Your Job, But Someone Using AI Likely Will — Here’s Why.

Unsubscribe from the nihilistic narrative

In the Western public discourse, AI is generally portrayed as an existential threat to our way of life, as a foe coming to take our jobs and upend any shred of normalcy left in these turbulent times.

Understandably, the natural response is to resist or to close your eyes and hope the trend will pass. But neither of these is realistic, as AI continues to permeate modern business and work environments.

Faced with the fact that AI is here to stay, I believe the only viable avenue is to embrace it. Though its inner workings may be complex, the technology itself is extremely accessible, and any misconceptions can be quickly dispelled by simply trying it. In this regard, business leaders should carry the torch and encourage employees to begin using AI, if for no other reason than at least to alleviate their own daily workloads.

It’s okay to be worried about change – everyone is. But don’t let that stop you from growing as an entrepreneur or professional.

As the freshly minted adage goes, “AI won’t take your job. Workers who use AI will.”



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