AI in Diverse Communities

As the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution becomes a more ubiquitous part of all our lives, it’s becoming apparent that the revolution has affected some groups of people more than others. Tech mogul Elon Musk has claimed that AI will eventually eliminate all jobs as we known them, and although that is at a minimum decades in the future, AI is currently eliminating some jobs and creating others. Questions are being asked about the future of this rapidly evolving technology and the changes it’s bringing, particularly how these changes will affect specific minority groups in the US and how those groups are preparing for the AI revolution. The technology is new, but there are some studies that show interesting results. Brands that understand these trends and how it relates to their minority consumer demographics will place themselves in a position to stay ahead of this steepening curve.

How well, nor not, AI is accepted and utilized by different communities in the US will depend on many factors, including accessibility. Because the US is a free market economic system, accessibility will be determined by companies and brands that have an interest in appealing to minority groups. Of course much of this will be driven by profit interests, but minority owned AI and computer businesses will also play a major role. Keep reading to see how AI has affected minority communities in the US, how some of those communities are using AI, and finally what we can learn from the raw numbers.

Fears of AI?

The emergence of AI has raised many red flags and fears among the population in general. Beyond the more outlandish ideas of AI turning on humans ala the Terminator or Matrix franchises, there are fears in some occupational sectors of AI replacing humans. But beyond these general fears, members of some American demographic groups fear that AI can, or has been, directed toward their communities.

The Los Angeles Police Department has already used AI programs to do what is known as “predictive policing,” where AI is used to predict neighborhoods where crimes are more likely to occur. Community leaders have criticized this use of AI, claiming that it unfairly saturates certain neighborhoods with police who are more likely to react negatively in encounters with people from those neighborhoods. AI facial recognition presents a similar problem, some argue. AI facial recognition used by police departments has demonstrated problems recognizing nonwhite faces, leading to some innocent people being arrested.

Experts and activists have argued that part of the mistrust some communities have toward AI is based on the lack of algorithmic transparency inherent in many of the programs. The low percentage of blacks and Hispanics with AI and computer science (CS) degrees is also seen as another barrier that prevents minorities from fully embracing AI. With that said, the trends indicate that minority groups are becoming receptive to AI and that they represent a sizable segment of people who are being affected by the AI revolution.

The Impact of AI on Different Communities

In addition to some of the potential problems discussed above, AI will directly affect the way some demographic groups work. According to one study, it’s estimated that by 2030 AI and automation will eliminate 4.5 million jobs currently held by African-Americans, which is 10% higher than the national average. It is important to note, though, that black women will be less affected than all other gender and ethnic groups because they are currently overrepresented in jobs that will see growth in the next decade, including nursing assistants and home health aids. The AI revolution will certainly affect the black community in many other ways in the coming years, and members of the community will play a role in shaping the direction of it.

The organization Black in AI (BAI) is working to connect the black community to AI trends. Founded by Timnit Gebru and Rediet Abebe in 2017, BAI’s goal is to increase the number of black people in AI and connect the wider community to AI through networking and conducting AI conferences. BAI claims to have increased black participation in its conferences by 40-fold, which it believes will increase the black community’s overall interest and participation in the AI revolution. A deeper dive into the numbers, which are detailed later, indicate there is some overall hesitancy among the African-American community to embrace AI, but there are also signs that there are plenty of opportunities for brands and companies.

When compared to some other demographic groups, the numbers show Hispanics have a slightly more positive opinion of the technology than other demographic groups. This is important because as the Hispanic share of the overall American population continues to grow, their power as a consumer group will also grow. As Gillermo Diaz Jr., a former CIO of Cisco and the founder and CEO of Conectado Inc. said: “We are experiencing a ‘light-speed moment’ where the rise of AI and technology intersects with Latino education, employment, and economic power- creating an even greater superpower in the U.S.”

A final demographic group to consider is Asians and Asian-Americans. The numbers show that the Asian and Asian-American community have accepted AI most willingly among all minority groups. In regards to fears of bias with AI facial recognition programs, Asian based companies have developed AI that is much better at recognizing the faces of Asians, which has the potential of being applied to other racial and ethnic groups. And as will be shown in the next section, Asian-Americans are playing an increasingly vital role in AI development, as the number of advanced degrees awarded to Asians in AI and CS are greatly increasing.

AI in Different Communities by the Numbers

The numbers show that the future trends regarding how different minority communities in the US view, use, invest in, and develop AI are actually a bit complex. American minority groups are not monolithic in their attitudes toward AI and an even deeper dive into this topic would likely reveal that this is also the case within each community, but for now a survey of some of the more recent studies on the topic can be helpful.

According to the Microsoft Annual Work Trend Index, attitudes toward AI vary by race, but not extremely so. The report shows that 53% of Hispanic, 46% of black, and 34% of white American workers are afraid of being replaced by AI. With that said, the report also indicates that 76% of Latino-Americans stated that they’d be willing to cede administrative tasks to AI, such as creating summaries of meetings. The results may be related to Hispanics working more jobs that are potentially replaceable by AI and automation, but at the same time it shows that they are a demographic willing to consider the benefits of the AI revolution.

Experts predict that AI will play a major role in the health care industry in the coming years, analyzing large amounts of data, discovering coding errors, and diagnosing illnesses, among other things. Although AI in healthcare will affect all demographic groups, a Pew Research poll shows consumer attitudes vary by race. A majority of Americans, regardless of their race, feel negatively if their health car providers rely on AI, with 62% of white, 61% of black, and 57% of Hispanic respondents saying they are somewhat or very uncomfortable with the idea. This skepticism was also seen in questions relating to patient outcomes and the use of robots.

The same poll shows that only 37% of white, 35% of black, and 40% of Hispanic respondents answered that AI can improve patient outcomes. This shows that although all demographic groups are skeptical of AI, once again Hispanics indicate slightly more favorability toward the new technology. When it comes to robots that use AI to do surgery, 40% of whites, 39% of Hispanics, and only 32% of blacks answered that they would definitely or probably want robots to operate on them. When broken down by gender, 47% of men and 33% of women answered that they definitely or probably want AI robots to perform surgery on them. These are definitely interesting numbers, and a further deep-dive into who are earning degrees in AI and investing in AI helps paint an even clearer picture of AI among different American demographic groups.

The background of the people earning AI related advanced degrees is important because they are the people who will promote the AI revolution in different communities. The numbers show that some demographic groups are overrepresented per capita, while other groups are underrepresented. A 2021 report by Stanford University, based on the 2020 census, showed that among recipients of AI PhDs in 2019, 45.6% were white (whites were 61.6% of the US population per the 2020 census), 22.4% were Asian (Asians were 6% of the US population per the 2020 census), black or African-American were 2.4% (blacks were 12.4% of the US population per the 2020 census), and Hispanics were 3.2% (Hispanics were 18.7% of the population for the 2020 census). The numbers for degrees awarded for PhDs in computer science are equally interesting.

The same Stanford study shows that the percentage of whites awarded PhDs in CS has dropped over the last few years and is now at 58.9%, just slightly below their share of the overall US population, but is still the highest among all demographic groups. Blacks earned 2.5% of the degrees and Hispanics 3.2%, which are nearly identical to their AI PhD numbers, respectively. Asians earned 24.4% of CS PhDs, which is also similar to their numbers in AI PhDs, but that number is on a markedly upward trajectory. These numbers show that among all minority groups in the US, Asians and Asian-Americans have the greatest and highest increasing professional involvement in AI.

One final set of numbers to consider concerns Hispanic investment in AI. According to the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC), there was a 65% increase in Hispanic enrollment in science and engineering programs from 2012 to 2022, which is significant when you consider that they are the fastest growing demographic group in the US. Many of these Hispanic degree holders currently work and will work in companies that invest in and leverage AI. Out of the 50 top companies that are playing a major role in the AI economy, 43 of those are headquartered in states with large Hispanic populations.

The numbers show that all American demographic groups have some apprehension when it comes to AI, although the numbers also show that most people are willing to keep an open mind. All demographic groups show enormous potential for brands, companies, and the use of AI, with Hispanics showing a bit more upside due to their growing numbers and overall receptiveness toward the technology. Hispanics may become the leading consumers of AI technology and products in the coming decades. Among all minority demographic groups, Asians and Asian-Americans appear poised to take a leadership role in AI development in the future.