Global business spending on artificial intelligence (AI) reached $219bn in 2018, however despite such a high level of AI spend, the vast majority of C-suite executives wish they had moved into the space sooner.

This is according to research by OC&C Strategy Consultants published today, entitled Let’s Get Real About AI, which saw 400 C-suite executives across the US and UK interviewed.

The research also found that 71% of businesses in the US and UK have now adopted some form of AI.

Regrets from executives

While adoption of AI is now high, many business leaders regret not looking into the technology sooner.

According to OC&C’s research, 86% of C-suite executives felt that they had missed businesses opportunities by not investing in the technology more quickly.

“Our research reveals the current adopters of AI are outperforming those yet to invest in the technology,” said James Walker, partner at OC&C.

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“Therefore, it’s essential that businesses find how best to deploy AI and use it as a transformative catalyst.

“By working out the pivot points where AI can make the biggest impact, businesses can plan for tomorrow and make sure they’re not left behind by competitors.”

AI spend to grow further as businesses augment employee’s abilities

While 2018 saw investment in the technology surge, AI spend is set to grow considerably more in the coming year.

OC&C projects that AI spend will hit $400bn annually by 2025, and account for 10% of all spending in the IT space.

Notably, it will largely not be used to replace human workers, but augment their work. The company projects that this will be extremely widespread, with half all jobs seeing 50% of their current tasks automated.

“Using AI is a complex task for businesses to navigate. There are an incredible number of factors to consider in order to realise AI’s full potential and it’s therefore vital that businesses get under the skin of it,” said Walker.

“We believe AI will become one of the biggest technologies in human history; as one of our interviewees put it, ‘bigger than the internet, bigger than splitting the atom’.

“There are obvious standout industries that AI will dominate; advanced robotics powered by AI will be a $5tn industry by 2025, in addition to other digital service industries such as programmatic media buying becoming 100% automated by the same time.”

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