70% of people harbour fears of AI with 1/4 expecting robots to take over

Posted: 2 May 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

The subject of AI is often a contentious one. For many, it’s one filled with optimism and once unimaginable excitement of what could be. For others, the very thought, can fill a wild, science fiction influenced imagination of dread and fear of the unknown.

The results of a new survey from Pegasystems, which can be viewed here, illustrates the point perfectly. The research firm surveyed 6,000 adults in North America, EMEA, and APAC to gain an insight into peoples feelings towards AI and its use for interacting with businesses.

According to the results, 35% said they would be comfortable with a business using some form of AI to interact with them, whilst 28% said they were uncomfortable.  A leading 35% said they were neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, due to a lack of knowledge or opinion.

Human touch

“Many consumers are excited to embrace the benefits of AI and see a promising future ahead,’ the statement read. ‘But some harbour deep-rooted fears about AI, and most still prefer the familiarity of the human touch over a faceless machine when given the option. For others, the AI experience isn’t yet living up to their expectations. And across the board, we found most consumers just don’t understand AI – not realising how it already touches their lives every day.”

Deep routed fears

Amongst the concerns around AI, dubbed as ‘Fear of the Unknown’ in the report, showed a staggering 70% had some form of fear around its potential impact on humanity and the world. This is despite 70% stating they understood what artificial intelligence actually is.

When questioned: ‘Which of the following scares you most about the use of AI in society’, the results showed:

  • 33% “It’s ever going to know me and my preferences as well as a human being”
  • 24% “The rise of the robots and enslavement of humanity”
  • 10% “Finding that i get on better with AU than I do with my friends and family”
  • 5% “Robots uncovering my deepest secrets”
  • 28% “None of the above/nothing”

The statement read: “Our survey finds that more than 70 percent of consumers harbour some sort of fear of Artificial Intelligence. And yes, a quarter of them even worry about machines taking over the world. This is a basic mistrust that businesses must face head on and overcome. This takes time and a well thought out strategy to introduce the benefits of AI and gradually increase consumers’ comfort levels.”

When asked to give examples of what AI and its benefits today (the 72% who claimed to understand it), answered included; the ability to replicate human interaction (35%), think logically (51%).

When asked the same question, but as to where they believe AI is increasing, the results showed; play games (19%), run surveillance on people (18%), replace human jobs (31%).

When asked where they felt AI capabilities were unlikely to be in the ‘near’ future’, results included; take over the world (10%), control your mind (8%) and the ability to feel emotion (14%).

Lack of understanding

Despite 70% claiming to understand AI, just 34% believed they had used some form of AI in their daily lives. However, on closer inspection, the survey revealed 84% had in fact come into contact with some form of AI, such as online recommendation engines like Amazon and Netflix, personal and virtual assistants like Siri/Alexa, online chatbots or even your email spam filter. All forms of machine learning and AI.

“If you’ve used Google or even spam filters, you’ve perhaps unknowingly experienced the benefit of AI in some form,” the statement read. “Misidentifying the level of AI in some of these technologies is understandable, but some misses were more surprising than others. Only 41 percent knew AI was present in Google Home or Amazon Alexa – which are marketed as bringing intelligent assistants into the home. More consumers recognised AI’s presence in Apple’s Siri (57 percent), perhaps because it’s older and more ubiquitous.”





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