April 11 2017
Self-driving cars, robotic coffee arms, and rumbas are all ways that automated technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing how we meet our day-to-day needs. New polling indicates that Americans accept it and support continuing to research AI – even if it affects the workforce.
Morning Consult polled 2,200 Americans on AI and found that Americans are embracing the future envisioned by the 1960s cartoon the Jetsons. More than half (57 percent) already realize that AI is present in their daily lives, but only 41 percent believe it’s generally safe. More than a third (38 percent) thinks it’s unsafe.
When asked about specific instances of technology, nearly three out of four (70 percent) are not comfortable with AI flying an airplane or performing surgery. Self-driving cars, medical diagnoses, financial investments and picking a romantic partner are all areas that Americans are very uncomfortable with using AI. At the other end of the spectrum are more basic tasks that generally are deemed acceptable for robots, but still make many Americans uncomfortable. For example, about one out of three (31 percent) are uncomfortable with a robot cleaning their house.
Generationally, we see that it’s not Millennials who most embrace artificial intelligence but Generation X. Nearly half (48 percent) of 30-44 year olds are most eager to rely on AI followed by 44 percent of 18-29 years. Even seniors 65+ are more ready to embrace AI (35 percent) than Baby Boomers (about 31 percent on average).
The effect of artificial intelligence on the workforce is a factor, but not as much of a deterrent as you might expect. Just more than half of peoplepolled said they’re less likely to support AI research knowing the technology could trigger mass unemployment.
We’re living through a technological revolution, the likes of which probably has not been seen since the turn of the 20th century as the assembly line introduced us to the world of mass production. That transformation changed our economy in ways that were likely difficult for many mom-and-pop shops. Human beings are resilient and learn to adapt and retool. We didn’t stop progress then and we shouldn’t stop it now either.
From a policy standpoint though, we should think about how to ensure future workers are prepared with the skills they need for jobs that will work alongside advanced technology or to find the positions that can’t be replaced by robots.