Stanford University


AI Adoption in America: Who, What, and Where

Erik Brynjolfsson
Emin Dinlersoz
Lucia Foster
Zachary Kroff
J. Frank Li
Kristina McElheran
Nikolas Zolas

October 2023

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We study the early adoption and diffusion of five AI-related technologies (automated-guided vehicles, machine learning, machine vision, natural language processing, and voice recognition) as documented in the 2018 Annual Business Survey of 850,000 firms across the United States. We find that fewer than 6% of firms used any of the AI-related technologies we measure, though most very large firms reported at least some AI use. Weighted by employment, average adoption was just over 18%. AI use in production, while varying considerably by industry, nevertheless was found in every sector of the economy and clustered with emerging technologies such as cloud computing and robotics. Among dynamic young firms, AI use was highest alongside more educated, more-experienced, and younger owners, including owners motivated by bringing new ideas to market or helping the community. AI adoption was also more common alongside indicators of high-growth entrepreneurship, including venture capital funding, recent product and process innovation, and growth-oriented business strategies. Early adoption was far from evenly distributed: a handful of “superstar” cities and emerging hubs led startups’ adoption of AI. These patterns of early AI use foreshadow economic and social impacts far beyond this limited initial diffusion, with the possibility of a growing “AI divide” if early patterns persist.

Stanford University