Over the last couple of months, newspapers and tech experts all around the world have discussed the opportunities, risks and ethical concerns regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots. This large amount of coverage has created a global hype around the topic.
Being founders of the largest European Chatbot network with more than 10,000 followers and 600+ developers, investors and businesses worldwide, we are confronted with different opinions about the European and the US Chatbot market on a daily basis. We have noticed that the beliefs from European and US market participants are quite diverse. We took these insights as a chance to offer insights and elaborate on these discrepancies.
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Europe – Taking the seat of the quite observer
In our view, the US is once again quicker to understand the market and the benefits of Chatbots. As usual, Europe is taking the seat of the quiet, conservative observer when it comes to adopting a new technology.
We recognize that in Europe the main belief about Chatbots boils down to the mantra: “Sure there is great potential, but look at the Twitter Chatbot Tay which got out of control?!” The media in Europe is not getting tired of reminding the readers of Microsoft’s experiment. And more so how it went wrong rather than emphasizing the many benefits of Chatbots for businesses. Thereby, reducing costs, time and complexity through automated conversations with customers are only a few.
The Ethical Question behind Chatbots
Another major concern Europeans have, refers to the ethical question. Will AI-driven robots replace humans and takeover humanity? When we recently spoke with Oxford Researcher Dr Stuart Armstrong, an expert in the field of “Future and Humanity / AI”, it soon became clear that we are still far away from the era where robots and AI will become smart enough to fully replace humans or become a threat.
Contrary to the Europeans, our US colleagues believe that AI will help humans to deal with simple and repetitive tasks. In that manner, these robots will enable us to focus on our core business. Working with one of the largest telecommunication providers worldwide in the field of customer support, we can only confirm this statement. Our Chatbot does not replace the agents. Instead, it enables them to focus on more complex problems rather than dealing with easy and recurring customer questions.
How confidential will Chatbots handle my Data?!
Another difference between the European and the US market is the data privacy. Europeans still feel uncomfortable giving third parties access to their private data. We see this also reflected when talking to European business partners. No matter which industry, data privacy is one of the first issues addressed when speaking about AI and Chatbots.
Additionally, the rather reserved approach of the Europeans has a negative impact on startups operating in the European Chatbot industry. Startups need first mover and innovative businesses for experimentation purposes and for building prototypes. Furthermore, they need supporters and positive media coverage to gain traction and most importantly, they need financial backup from investors to bring their startup to the next level. If they do not receive their resources quickly enough because of a slow moving market, they are very likely to move their business to the US.
Giving European start-ups the trust and resources before they move to the USA
When we took part at a recent panel discussion about AI in Cologne, an expert from IBM also supported this statement. He urged European investors to fund start-ups early to avoid them emigrating to the US. According to him, this would be a shame since Europe bears some of the strongest and most talented Machine Learning developers in the world.
Even though the market for Chatbots is young, Europe seems to be already lacking behind. Data privacy, the fear of failure, ethical questions and market uncertainty are only a few issues Europeans have. Therefore, only the smartest and most innovative companies have taken the leap and started implementing Chatbots into their business. These companies say that even though the technology is new and it is difficult to predict the market, the trend of automation is inevitable and essential for a positive development of their future business.