Jan 11, 2019

America is split over advancing artificial intelligence

Overall, 41% of American adults support the development of artificial intelligence, according to a new survey.

Adapted from a Center for the Governance of AI report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, but: That leaves a lot of other people opposing it — a lot of women, low-wage earners, people without a college education and people without coding experience. The same goes for Republicans and people 73 or older. Essentially, those unsupportive of AI are those least likely to be involved in designing it — and the most likely to be adversely affected.

Why it matters: Without broad buy-in, what AI’s supporters hope for — better health care, safer cars — could be delayed, mired in a legitimacy crisis, or even result in a public revolt.

The data comes from a nationwide survey released Tuesday. It was carried out last June by a pair of social scientists — Yale's Baobao Zhang and Oxford's Allan Dafoe — and published by the Center for the Governance of AI.

  • The division in support for AI may reflect a crucial accountability gap: AI makers — mostly rich, educated men — may not be very attuned to the perceptions and preferences of the people their creations will affect.
  • "These people are least likely to have had experiences that would lead them to be wary of the actions of for-profit companies," Whittaker of the AI Now Institute tells Axios.

"It's in the public interest to build AI well, but everyone has to be convinced," says Dafoe.

  • "Consensus isn't there, and there's a real risk that there could be a political backlash against the development and deployment of AI."

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