The Future of Artificial Intelligence: What Americans Think

Meagan Micozzi

By Tanya Levina, Fluent

Advances in artificial intelligence are making our lives easier by creating products that allow us to automate processes and procedures. From self-driving cars lowering accident rates to robotic microsurgeries – there is an infinite number of benefits technology can provide for our society. At the same time, there is a growing concern that machines can eventually take over and replace human employees in a growing number of sectors.

“Eventually I think most jobs will be replaced, like 75 percent, 80 percent of people are probably not going to work for a living,” New York University’s Gary Marcus said earlier this year. 1

In our recent study, we surveyed over 2,700 US consumers to better gauge their understanding and attitudes towards artificial intelligence and the effects they believe it will have on their lives.

We found that Americans are concerned about many issues, such as terrorism, the economy, and healthcare reform2. However, one of the most important shifts occurring in our lifetime — the rapid advancement of technology and its potential effects on worldwide employment and the economy – is not top of mind for the average US consumer. Americans do not have a very good understanding of what AI is and the effects it can potentially have on their lives, employment opportunities, and the world economy. US government officials are more likely to spend time on “hot button” issues such as gun violence, terrorism, taxes, and healthcare reform because of the popularity of these issues with voters and donors. Little attention is paid to devising a plan to ease the shift into an automated, mechanical economy. There is a danger that by the time AI is positioned to take over nearly all US jobs – the government will not have a plan in place to smooth the transition for the unemployed. This unpreparedness may lead to further economic inequality and political unrest.3 There is a great need to educate the US population, start the conversation, and begin brainstorming potential solutions.

American Consumers Are Not Worried About AI

While scientists and technology entrepreneurs are increasingly worried about effects of future legions of robotic innovations on the world’s workforce, the general American public is not as concerned. In part, because few US consumers have a good understanding of what AI is and how it’s going to affect them. In fact, when asked, only 17% were certain that they used AI technologies in their everyday life.

Americans generally regard AI development as a positive force (22%) and few have a negative outlook (7%) on how this technology may affect their job prospects in the future. Nearly half (42%) admit they have no idea how their jobs may be affected by technology. The younger generation is more optimistic than their older counterparts; 26% believe AI technology will have a positive effect on their job prospects.

Few Americans are expecting a doomsday scenario, only a quarter believe that AI technology will have a negative effect on the society as a whole and 40% project no impact. Similarly, more than half do not believe that AI technology will have any effect on their personal lives and nearly 7 in 10 do not know whether they want AI tech development to speed up or slow down.

The difference in understanding and perceptions of artificial intelligence between generations is stark. The younger Americans (18-34) have a rosier view of what AI technology has in store for them. They are more likely to believe that AI development will have a positive impact on their personal life, have no impact on the society as a whole, and are more likely to say they want AI technology advancement to speed up.

 

 

Americans Want Smarter Products and Services

Consumers tend to look forward to technology advancements that will create better consumer products. The aspects of AI technology that Americans are most excited about include innovations in healthcare, intelligent assistants, and self-driving cars.

As technology evolves, consumers are often uneasy about allowing it to take over certain aspects of their life. People tend to feel more comfortable entrusting technical tasks, such as manufacturing or entertainment to AI but are less comfortable trusting computers with service areas that traditionally require human interactions, such as elderly care or childcare. Americans are also wary of trusting AI with banking and finance. This underscores lack of understanding among the general populace, as most stock market trading is already done by AI programs. 4,5

Consumer Concerns About AI Center on Personal Data Security

When asked about specific concerns they may have about AI technology development, US consumers are mostly concerned about personal data risks and security breaches (48%). Even though 4 in 10 are also worried that loss of jobs to AI may have a negative impact on the economy, fewer Americans are specifically concerned about their own job being outsourced (21%).

There is a distrust of technology companies in charge of ensuring safety and security of AI technologies to come. Only 7% of US consumers say they trust these companies “a lot” and more than 6 in 10 say they do not have much trust.

Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are the most trusted brands to bring about safe AI technologies, and Millennials and Gen Z are more trusting of technology companies than older generations.

Students tend to be outliers in this study. More than 6 in 10 students say they think about AI technology impact on the workforce at least a little bit, as they decide on which career to pursue. Nearly a third of students say they think about advancing technology a great deal.

Considering the general lack of awareness about AI, there is a growing need to educate Americans on the rapidly advancing technologies and what it will mean for their families and the society. Only a well-informed populace will be able to guide the government to prepare for easing the burden on those constituents who will be affected the most by the loss of employment in the coming decades.

References:

  1. CBS news, “Will AI overtake humans in the workplace?”, 2017 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/will-a-i-overtake-humans-in-the-workplace/
  2. Fluent, “Consumer Outlook 2018 Study”, 2017, http://www.fluentco.com/insight/consumer-outlook-2018
  3. The Verge, “Robots and AI are going to make social inequality even worse, says new report”, 2017. https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/13/15963710/robots-ai-inequality-social-mobility-study
  4. Newsweek, “GOLDMAN SACKED: HOW ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL TRANSFORM WALL STREET”, 2017. http://www.newsweek.com/2017/03/10/how-artificial-intelligence-transform-wall-street-560637.html
  5. CNBC, “Just 10% of trading is regular stock picking, JPMorgan estimates”, 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/13/death-of-the-human-investor-just-10-percent-of-trading-is-regular-stock-picking-jpmorgan-estimates.html

Methodology:

Fluent is a data-driven performance marketing company. Fluent’s Consumer Perceptions of AI survey was conducted online within the United States by Fluent, LLC on November 27, 2017 among 2,773 adults (aged 18 and up for both waves). Due to rounding, percentages may not always add up to 100%. Fluent’s proprietary ad serving technology includes a real-time survey module that was used to facilitate the data collection for this study. Respondents were randomly selected and data was weighted to US Census 2010 population distribution. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

Please visit Fluent.com.

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