As the EU grinds the gears into action on the AI Act, the UK and US recently announced a “landmark agreement” on AI testing that broadly glosses over the lack of any firm governmental action in either country (other than executive orders and some Bletchley Park posturing last year). But do UK consumers care?

We’ve been tracking US and UK consumer attitudes towards AI and generative AI (gen AI) in our monthly consumer pulse surveys (Forrester’s February and March 2024 Consumer Pulse Survey) for a while now, and the overwhelming feeling we see in UK consumers is cautious skepticism. When we look at UK consumers’ attitudes towards gen AI:

  • Most demand transparency. UK consumers strongly believe that transparency of where generative AI is being deployed is paramount. “Companies should disclose when they are using generative AI when interacting with me” is the question that generates the strongest response in UK consumers, with more than three quarters agreeing.
  • Some harbor ethical concerns. Just over a third of UK consumers agree that “I understand how I can be responsible and ethical when using generative AI,” with around a quarter citing ethics and concern with the ethical implications of using it, as well as lack of trust in the output as reasons they aren’t using gen AI tools.
  • A few are beginning to understand the likely risks. There are early signs that some of the initial apocalyptic doom-hype maybe waning and that consumers are slowly beginning to understand the more apparent short-term risks of bias, hallucination, and breach of their privacy. Over the course of 2024 we see a 6% drop in UK consumers that believe “Generative AI poses a serious threat to society,” but a small decrease in those that say they are comfortable giving up personal information to generative AI tools.

If UK firms and government bodies want to drive more consumers to use generative AI experiences more effectively, they need to build trust. The technology is still remarkably new considering the publicity impact it’s had. A year and a half into the launch of the iPhone, smart phones were still niche. But the barriers to entry to genAI are lower. Anyone with an internet connection is invited to the party.

Human+AI Must Be The Cornerstone Of The UK’s AI Future

Beyond trust, the biggest barriers to genAI adoption in the UK are apathy and not understanding the potential of the tools or how to use them. Most consumers cite “I haven’t had a reason to use it” as the primary reason why they haven’t used genAI, with lack of knowledge the next most common reason.

According to UK government figures, the UK’s AI sector “contributes £3.7 billion to the UK economy and employs 50,000 people across the country”. With Microsoft opening a new AI hub in London and committing to a £2.5 billion investment to “upskill the U.K. workforce for the AI era” as well as increase investment in Cardiff and the undisclosed “north” (by which they probably mean Manchester, not the actual north), at least the technology industry seems to be thinking about how to educate and empower tomorrow’s workers.

Your strategy to embed AI into work and experiences shouldn’t be one of replacement. Yes, AI has the potential to automate mundane tasks, transform work, and unlock new experiences. But the firms that will win will implement AI with empathy, transparency, and a clear focus on unleashing their employees to solve customers’ problems.

We’ll be exploring the theme of Human+AI at CX Summit EMEA 2024 on 24–26 June. See you there…