59% of senior executives feel threatened by artificial intelligence

U.S. businesses investing in artificial intelligence this year to improve efficiency and save money.

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According to a new Pactum survey of 100 senior executives conducted by Vanson Bourne, 97% said they plan to invest significantly in artificial intelligence this year, with 83% of respondents saying they will spend over $500,000 on the technology. Of that group, 10% anticipate spending over $50 million.

"Over the past year there has been a shift in attitudes towards AI and its uses," Martin Rand, CEO of Pactum, said in a statement. "Many companies around the world have turned to technology to help bolster its business processes. It is great to see this positive shift in attitudes towards the use of AI within business and see how organizations can succeed by combining the right technology solutions with the right people."

SEE: Gartner's top tech predictions for 2021 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Most of the respondents (77%) said the COVID-19 pandemic improved attitude toward the technology. Only 8% said it had the opposite effect.

While interest may be high, other AI research indicates business executives need to learn more about how AI works, how to implement it in their organizations, and what it takes to make it work. According to a recent Forrester study, to be successful, business leaders need to look for projects that build AI capabilities and knowledge slowly, over time. 

AI-related jobs also are in-demand. Based on a search of open positions, the jobs board Indeed.com found that AI has been good for creating high-paying jobs--most over six figures per year. These include data scientists, software engineers, developers, and software architects. 

The Pactum survey also found that:

  • Most respondents (80%) said their organizations were already using AI.

  • IT, technology and telecoms (30%) as well as financial services (24%) will see the biggest growth in AI. This is followed by manufacturing (13%), business and professional services (6%), distribution and transport (5%) and retail (5%).

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents said AI is being developed responsibly, 9% said it wasn't, and 10% said it was too soon to tell."

  • Most respondents (84%) said AI is improving "all the time."

While most senior executives support the use of AI, reservations remain:

  • Many respondents (59%) said they feel threatened by AI and can see it taking over jobs.

  • More than half of respondents (52%) said AI is too new to be trusted.

This article was updated on June 4, 2021.

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