Despite AI Hype, New Data Shows Only Few US Companies Are Actually Using It

By Jace Dela Cruz

Dec 03, 2023 11:02 PM EST

The hype surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is reaching a crescendo among major US companies, with almost half of the S&P 500 firms featuring AI prominently in their earnings calls since May. 

However, according to an NBC News analysis of S&P 500 earnings calls, it may be all talk and no actual use of AI for some businesses. A survey conducted by the Census Bureau in November revealed that a mere 4.4% of companies across the country reported recent use of AI to produce goods or services.

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(Photo : Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

All Talk But No AI?

The surge in interest in AI gained momentum following the introduction of OpenAI's ChatGPT in November 2022, with mentions of AI soaring in the quarters after the chatbot's launch. 

Interestingly, this AI enthusiasm is not confined to the tech realm alone. Retail giant Walmart, for instance, disclosed its ongoing trials of AI-powered search and chat features, while Bath & Body Works announced the pilot phase of a machine-learning tool designed to re-engage inactive customers.

Despite the omnipresence of AI rhetoric in corporate discussions, the tangible integration of AI into products and services remains notably low, according to the Census Bureau's survey of 200,000 businesses. 

Analysts like Brian Nagel from Oppenheimer & Co. observe a conservative approach in businesses' actual implementation of AI. Nagel noted that companies often publicly embrace the hype to showcase long-term growth commitment, but the nascent stage of AI technology presents challenges in adaptation and finding practical applications.

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The 'AI Divide'

One key factor contributing to this gap between AI talk and action is many businesses' resource constraints.

Kristina McElheran, an associate professor at the University of Toronto specializing in technology's impact on business strategy, emphasized that education, access to skilled employees, and financial resources play pivotal roles in a company's ability to leverage new technologies. 

In her study on AI adoption in business, McElheran highlighted the expense of AI tools and the limited pool of professionals proficient in working with them as significant barriers.

According to McElheran, the current landscape reflects an "AI divide" where early adopters concentrate in "superstar" cities with resources and expertise. She underscored the potential for this divide to deepen unless concerted efforts address education and accessibility challenges.

Mike Loukas, CEO of TrueMark Investments, holds a more optimistic view, predicting that over 75% of businesses will integrate AI in the next five to ten years. However, he anticipated that this adoption would largely occur indirectly, with companies using applications built on AI rather than directly engaging with the technology. 

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