Mar 5, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: Public trust in AI is sinking across the board

Illustration of a human and robot hand with pinky fingers interlaced in a pinky swear

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Trust in AI technology and the companies that develop it is dropping, in both the U.S. and around the world, according to new data from Edelman shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: The move comes as regulators around the world are deciding what rules should apply to the fast-growing industry.

"Trust is the currency of the AI era, yet, as it stands, our innovation account is dangerously overdrawn," Edelman global technology chair Justin Westcott told Axios in an email. "Companies must move beyond the mere mechanics of AI to address its true cost and value — the 'why' and 'for whom.'"

  • Westcott says the public wants to see a commitment to protecting personal privacy and rigorous examination of AI's social impact "by scientists and ethicist alike."
  • "Those who prioritize responsible AI, who transparently partner with communities and governments, and who put control back into the hands of the users, will not only lead the industry but will rebuild the bridge of trust that technology has, somewhere along the way, lost," Westcott said.

By the numbers: Globally, trust in AI companies has dropped to 53%, down from 61% five years ago. In the U.S., trust has dropped 15 percentage points (from 50% to 35%) over the same period.

  • Trust in AI is low across political lines. Democrats trust in AI companies is 38%, independents are at 25% and Republicans at 24%.
  • Tech is losing its lead as the most trusted sector. Eight years ago, technology was the leading industry in trust in 90% of the countries Edelman studies. Today, it is the most trusted in only half of countries.

Between the lines: People in developing countries are more likely to embrace AI than those in developed ones.

  • Respondents in France, Canada, Ireland, UK, U.S., Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and Sweden reject the growing use of AI by a three-to-one margin, Edelman said.
  • By contrast, acceptance outpaces resistance by a wide margin in developing markets such as Saudi Arabia, India, China, Kenya, Nigeria and Thailand.

Zoom in: Edelman's research also finds the public unsatisfied with government efforts.

  • "When it comes to AI regulation, the public's response is pretty clear: 'What regulation?'," Westcott said. "There's a clear and urgent call for regulators to meet the public's expectations head on."
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