Rich Humann, CEO of H2M  H2M architects+engineers, said employees can "become...

Rich Humann, CEO of H2M  H2M architects+engineers, said employees can "become complacent" when AI takes over some of their duties Credit: Gary Licker

Long Island executives are slow to embrace artificial intelligence, despite six in 10 saying it would benefit their business or nonprofit, according to a new poll.

Nearly 7 in 10 of the 118 CEOs who took the 2024 HIA-LI Long Island Economic Survey said they won’t be investing in A.I. this year. Among that group, 32% said they’re not inclined to spend on the technology in the future.

Only 3 in 10 said they had made either a modest or significant investment in A.I., according to the survey, which was conducted between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15 by accounting firm Citrin Cooperman and Adelphi University.

“Artificial intelligence really was not something that was being grasped on Long Island,” said John Fitzgerald, a managing partner at Citrin, referring to the poll results. “It wasn’t thought of as being a real mover or shaker going forward.”

He added that many CEOs in Nassau and Suffolk counties are taking a wait-and-see approach to A.I. out of concern about job losses, damage to the business’ reputation and potential adverse reactions from customers.

“We have to understand the capabilities of A.I. and put guardrails around it before we just dive in and do something irresponsible that changes our companies … We have to walk before we run with A.I.,” Fitzgerald said in presenting the survey results to about 250 people at an HIA-LI breakfast in Hauppauge on Thursday.

In a separate poll that was released last month, 2 in 10 local CEOs said they are using A.I. now and more than 4 in 10 said they planned to in the future. Wholesale and distribution companies represented the largest number of early A.I. adopters in that October-December 2023 survey of 320 leaders by PKF O'Connor Davies accountants and the Siena College Research Institute.

At the HIA-LI event, Dr. Lawrence E. Eisenstein, chief public and community health officer for Catholic Health, said it's using A.I. to improve communications with patients, such as refilling prescriptions via text messaging and checking in patients via kiosks at the doctor's office.

“A.I. is probably the single most important thing in the future of health care … If you don't join in, you will be left behind,” he said on a six-member panel of leaders who discussed the survey results.

The introduction of A.I. in the workplace can make employees fear for their jobs.

Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, recalled the reaction of some staff members after the food bank automated the enrolling and scheduling of volunteers.

“We had pushback over that from some staff who said, 'Is my job now not necessary because it's going on the computer?' … I said, 'No, the fact of the matter is that your job is going to become more efficient because you could do other things as opposed to holding volunteers' hands.' ”

A.I.'s capacity to create content is a challenge to educational institutions and professional services firms, according to MaryAnne Hyland, dean of Adelphi's business school, and Rich Humann, CEO of H2M architects+engineers.

“Employers are always asking for graduates who have critical thinking skills … who are good writers,” Hyland said. “So, now students have at their disposal ChatGPT and other A.I. platforms that can do the critical thinking for them. They don't have the opportunity to learn how to solve problems for themselves,” she said.

Humann agreed, adding that employees can “become complacent” when AI takes over some of their duties. “It is a huge risk in our industry if we become too reliant on computer support,” he said. 

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