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What does AI and the built environment have in common? A PR problem...


Everywhere you look – be it LinkedIn, webinars, or in any meeting discussion – it’s become impossible to avoid AI.

With the technology quickly playing a part in many aspects of our lives, like many other companies, we’ve been considering the pros and cons of applications such as ChatGPT and Bard, and how we might harness the technology for good.

An interesting parallel between AI and the built environment soon became clear to us: both often struggle with a PR problem. However, if managed in the right way, they also have great capacity to be used for good.

Much of the negative press linked to AI comes down to the fact that many of us, to varying degrees, fear change. Concerns over mass unemployment, misinformation, data sharing and storage, and the speed with which it is evolving – can understandably make people feel a little uneasy.

In a similar way, the built environment can inspire fear by way of new developments of all shapes and sizes, modern construction methods and what they might mean for those living nearby or inside the red line.

But we know there can be no progress without change. In both cases, it’s important that companies harness the possibilities that change brings and use them for good, making sure to carefully communicate and bring people with them on that journey.

Changing the narrative

Bad news travels fast. For AI, examples include the Samsung data leak of secret code and confidential meeting notes and the ChatGPT glitch which shared conversation history with the wrong people.

Similarly, most property and construction headlines highlight such issues concerning construction, spurious claims of land-banking and rising mortgage rates.

Naturally, humans gravitate towards bad news, meaning the positive contributions of both AI and the built environment often stay hidden under the radar. We reckon more can be done to promote the benefits.

At the same time, the Government has a large role to play in regulating both AI and the built environment. For AI, guidelines and rules need to be set to ensure safe and fair use. For the built environment, it must regulate planning, setting the bar for the type, location, quality and quantity of homes that are built, at all levels.

In both instances, however, regulation should not put a limit on innovation and progress. It should empower them.

While there are many similarities between AI and the built environment, there’s one crucial difference: AI is certain to evolve, impact and influence most parts of everyday life, but with the built environment, there’s much less of a guarantee.

With the planning system stuck, infrastructure slow and home ownership becoming increasingly unattainable for many – the opportunities for development to do good in some cases are becoming harder, not easier.

Let’s hope change comes soon.

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