Nov 17, 2021 - Technology

Americans are confused about AI

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new poll about Americans' attitudes toward AI shows deep ambivalence about what the technology will do to their lives.

The big picture: Americans fear the effect AI will have on employment, politics and privacy, but also believe it should play a bigger role in technology, manufacturing and more.

  • In other words: Who knows?

By the numbers: A new national poll of 2,200 adults by the Stevens Institute of Technology and Morning Consult found 74% of respondents believe AI will lead to a loss of personal privacy, 71% believe it will reduce employment opportunities, and 60% believe it will increase political polarization.

  • A majority believe AI will be misused by governments, individuals and businesses.

The other side: Despite those fears, almost two-thirds of respondents think facial recognition — an increasingly widespread AI application that deeply concerns many experts — is a responsible use of the technology.

  • While loss of privacy was the biggest stated concern about AI, younger Americans were less worried — 62% of Gen Z respondents said they were worried about AI privacy, compared to 80% of baby boomers.
  • Even as respondents expressed fears about automation and AI reducing jobs, more than half believed it could ultimately create better working conditions and 70% said it would reduce the risk of dangerous jobs.

What they're saying: "There's a lot of intelligence around how AI could potentially invade privacy, but there's also a cautious optimism that I was encouraged to see," says Jason Corso, director of the Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Yes, but: Corso notes while half of the respondents believed AI is sufficiently regulated by the government, in fact, there is "actually limited to no regulation right now."

  • "That tells me that we need more education about AI."
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