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AI: How it works, how it makes us feel

Whether messaging with customer service chatbots or browsing recommendations for the next binge-worthy television show, we interact with AI-driven technology every day. In fact, artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to play a more significant role in our lives—from managing finances to health care—helping us simplify tasks and personalize experiences. As AI technology continues to help bring new, innovative solutions to market, let’s take a look at what consumers are saying about it.

A recent MIT AgeLab survey, sponsored by Bank of America, reveals consumer attitudes regarding AI and assesses how much they really understand about this growing technology. Key findings from the study include:

On average, consumers report they have little to some knowledge about AI, with millennials and Gen X expressing higher levels of understanding.
People generally have favorable views toward AI, and believe AI is likely to be beneficial.
Most consumers indicate that they would be willing to use AI for finances, including to analyze financial habits and make personalized savings recommendations, to inquire about account information and to evaluate creditworthiness.
Similar to general financial management, consumer responses also suggest that most people are at least a little willing to use AI for longer-term financial needs, including saving for retirement.
Gen Xers, millennials, men, individuals with higher incomes and those with higher education perceive AI as significantly more beneficial, have higher trust and are more willing to use AI-enabled products and services.
Despite the belief in AI’s benefits, there remains some concern about its potential risks, which may reflect public uncertainty.
Wider public education on what AI is, as well as its potential benefits, may be necessary to bridge a new digital divide that may impact every industry and policy sector.

What exactly is AI?

The MIT AgeLab study cites this definition: Use of algorithms and statistical models to allow computers to make decisions without explicit programming to perform the task. Machine-learning algorithms build a model on sample data to identify and extract patterns, and thereby acquire knowledge.

Erica®, Bank of America’s virtual financial assistant, is a good example of AI in action. Erica® not only helps simplify common banking tasks—but also delivers proactive and personalized “nudges” based on individual customer insights that can help them stay on top of their finances and guide them to helpful next steps.

Methodology: The MIT AgeLab is working with Bank of America to explore these questions, to better understand AI’s current impacts and to envision future applications and implications. Panels of subject matter experts and consumers have been surveyed to gather perspectives and thoughts around possible applications, future outlooks, related costs, trust issues and possible biases in multiple domains of AI implementation.

The data presented were collected from 911 adults in the United States through an online survey. The sample represented various age groups (Silent Generation born ~1945: 13.5%, Baby Boomers born 1946~1964: 27.2%, Generation X born 1965~1980: 25.2%, Millennials born 1981~1997: 24.1%, and Generation Z born 1998~: 9.9%), household income brackets (<$25,000 annually: 12.7%, $25,000~$49,999: 12.6%, $50,000~$74,999: 13.0%, $75,000~$99,999: 9.5%, $100,000~$149,999: 11.7%, $150,000~$199,999: 13.1%, $200,000~$249,999: 8.9%, $250,000~$299,999: 4.7%, $300,000+: 12.1%, and no answer: 1.6%), and education levels (high school or less: 12.9%, some college or Associate’s degree: 22.2%, college degree: 23.5%, some graduate education: 5.2%, and graduate or professional degree: 36.1%). The sample had an even gender split (male: 51.0%, female: 48.6%, and gender non-conforming: 0.3%), was 58.6% employed (full- or part-time), and was 63.8% White. In the online survey, AI was defined as “machines that are able to make predictions and decisions when presented with novel information within a defined task setting.”

MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate of Bank of America Corporation.