How Do Different Generations View Artificial Intelligence?

AI affects everyone today. Because it’s so prevalent, people will have strong feelings about it, both positive and negative. Understanding these views is important when determining where AI could go from here and how businesses should approach it. Of course, opinions on AI vary between demographics.

Some of the most notable discrepancies exist between different age groups. As you might expect, younger generations who’ve grown up with more digital technology tend to see AI differently than those who’ve grown up without it. Here’s a closer look at these generational differences and what they say about AI.

How Baby Boomers View AI

Start with the oldest of the four major generations today — Baby Boomers. These are people born between the mid-1940s and mid-60s, placing them roughly in the ages of 60 to 80 today.

According to a survey by research firm Barna, Boomers are by far the most hesitant of any generation to embrace AI. Just 7% say they’re excited about this technology, with 49% saying they’re skeptical and 45% saying they outright don’t trust it.

This skepticism is easy to understand, as older adults are the most vulnerable to online scams of any demographic and came into adulthood before widespread internet use. All that’s to say Boomers are less likely to trust any new technology. Even if they don’t have personal experience of its downsides, they also have less experience in its positives.

Unsurprisingly, Boomers are also the least likely to use AI. Just 20% say they use it at least weekly and more than half don’t use it at all. However, more than a third agree AI will change their everyday lives. While they may not like the technology, they can see its potential, for better or worse.

How Gen X Views AI

Gen X — the generation born between the mid-60s and early 80s — is similarly doubtful about AI. In the Barna survey, 35% said they’re skeptical about it and 25% said they don’t trust it. Still, Gen Xers are far more likely than Boomers to use this technology. More than a third say they use it either “sometimes” or “often.”

Interestingly, Gen Xers report more neutral stances on AI’s future effects than other generations. In a different poll, 35% said they’re unsure if AI would positively or negatively impact their line of work — more than both Millennials and Boomers. Similarly, they had the largest share of people saying they didn’t know whether AI would put jobs at risk.

While they may not know how AI will impact their lives, Gen Xers are more certain that it will in one way or another. More than half agreed it’d change their everyday lives — 15 percentage points higher than Boomers and almost as many as Gen Z.

How Millennials View AI

Millennials are the first generation to spend most of their working lives with the internet and other digital technologies. This demographic — born between the 80s and mid-90s — reflects that tech-savviness in their views on AI.

More Millennials say they use AI at least weekly more than any other generation — a whopping 43% do. Part of that comes from using it more at work than anyone else, with more than two-thirds utilizing it at their jobs. Similarly, Millennials were more likely than anyone else to agree AI will change their everyday life.

This high usage also comes with more enthusiasm for AI. Almost a quarter of Millennials say they’re excited about it — more than any other generation. Similarly, in a MITRE-Harris study, 62% of Millennials said they’re more excited about the potential benefits of AI than they are worried about its risks.

That enthusiasm doesn’t mean Millennials don’t have any reservations, though. Despite having the highest share of people excited about AI, the number of Millennials saying they’re skeptical of it still outnumbers the enthusiasts. More than 80% also believe regulations are necessary to protect consumers from AI’s potential risks.

How Gen Z Views AI

Gen Z — born around the late 90s or later — is the most connected generation. Roughly 25% of Gen Zers had a smartphone before they were 10 and all of them grew up with the internet. As you might expect from that, they fall close to their fellow digital natives in how they view AI.

While fewer Gen Zers said they were excited about AI than Millennials, fewer of them are also skeptical of it. Usage trends follow a similar pattern. Fewer Gen Zers use AI at work than Millennials, but more use it in their personal lives than other generations.

Interestingly, while Gen Z has the lowest share of people saying they’re skeptical of or don’t trust AI, they pass other generations in more specific fears. In the MITRE-Harris survey, 62% of Gen Zers said they’re concerned about AI replacing them at work. Half of them also report feeling an urgency to integrate AI into their daily lives.

What Do These Views Say About AI as a Whole?

These generational differences reveal some interesting trends in AI perceptions. Most prominently, while more AI exposure goes hand in hand with more excitement about the technology, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

Millennials and Gen Z use AI far more often than Boomers and Gen X, both in work and in their personal lives. Even so, more than half of the people in these two generations still worry about its impact on jobs. Both age groups tend to agree AI’s benefits outweigh its risks, but not by a wide margin.

Everyone, regardless of age, seems to have at least a few concerns about AI’s potential negative effects. More familiarity does assuage some of these fears, so as AI becomes more common, older generations may come around to the technology more. Still, AI companies should address these concerns head-on, as even the most tech-native generations have them.

At some point, familiarity with AI may make it lose some of its luster, too. Gen Zers — who use AI in their personal lives the most — have the least extreme perspectives on it one way or another. They’re not as excited about it as Millennials but not as skeptical of it as Boomers or Gen X. That could reflect AI already reaching a point of normalcy — as it currently exists, at least.

How people perceive AI in the workplace may change before long, considering Gen Z will account for 30% of the workforce by 2030. Team members tomorrow may not see it as much of a novelty, which will either mean higher productivity or less engagement with these tools.

Views on AI Vary Widely

Overall, people across all generations are a bit worried about AI but agree it will change their lives one way or another. Specific feelings beyond these larger trends vary widely between age groups. AI companies may want to keep that in mind when marketing their technology to different demographics.

AI’s potential inspires excitement in some and fear in others. In particular groups, there’s a mix of both. Understanding these dynamics and accounting for all sides of AI’s impression on different people are key to holding productive conversations on the technology in the future.

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