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Majority of Brits underestimate use of artificial intelligence in their everyday lives but recognise wider benefits for society

Published on
25 Mar 2020
Research from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), part of the University of Oxford, reveals that less than half of Brits have a good understanding of AI and how it’s already being used in daily life.

A new survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of Professor Gina Neff, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute (OII), reveals that less than half of Brits have a good understanding of AI and how it’s already being used in daily life.

Artificial intelligence is often referred to as the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent human beings.

The YouGov survey shows there is a growing perception gap between people’s understanding of AI, the extent to which people are already using AI tools and services in their daily lives and how Brits envisage AI being used in the future to address social and economic problems.

The survey shows that whilst 47% of Brits say they have a good understanding of AI and underestimate the use of AI with only 26% of people think AI tools and services are already in use in their daily lives.

And it seems Brits have some concerns about AI, with 37% of people saying that they would not choose to use AI tools and services that are available in the here and now, according to the survey.

Conversely the overwhelming majority – 92% see the long-term potential for AI to help others, with just 8% of Brits saying it had no role to play in tackling wider social and economic issues in the future.

Professor Neff, the commissioner of the survey, said:

“It’s encouraging to see that people can see the benefits of using AI tools and services to help tackle some of the big challenges we face as a society such as climate change, extreme weather and improving transport and healthcare systems, but when it comes to their own lives, Brits have some concerns about trusting AI with important decisions. But AI technologies are already proving useful today, being adopted by governments, local authorities and industry in ways that matter for our daily lives, without, as our survey shows, many of us even realising.

“As academics, we have a role to play in helping demystify some of the common public misperceptions around AI and leading conversations about how ensuring AI can benefit individuals and the wider society. That’s why we’ve partnered with Google to launch the A-Z of AI to help people distinguish fact from fiction and get to grips with what can be a complex topic.”

Claudine Beaumont, from the public affairs team at Google said:

“The survey findings show that the general public are optimistic about AI and how it can help them in their everyday lives as well as benefitting broader society yet there is still some confusion about where to go for more information. So we’ve teamed up with the Oxford Internet Institute, inspired by our mutual belief in making information on AI more universally accessible. We hope that users will find the A-Z of AI website informative and easy to navigate, breaking down some of the barriers and helping the public understand the transformative role of AI in our societies”.

Individual use of AI in everyday life – key findings:

  • 26% of Brits would like AI to recommend films, videos and music based on their preferences
  • 25% of people would like AI to provide them with tips to improve their general health
  • 23% of those surveyed would like AI to suggest meals based on their dietary preferences
  • 20% of Brits would like AI to help them filter online content for their children
  • 20% of busy Brits would like AI to make appointments for them
  • Only 5% of people would use like AI to help them find a partner using dating apps

The findings also show that when it comes to how different age groups perceive AI, younger people aged 18-24yrs are much more likely to want to use AI in their daily lives compared to older people, aged over 55.

  • 40% of 18-24yrs would like AI to provide them with health tips compared to 21% of over 55s
  • 27% of 18-24yrs would like AI to give them personal finance advice compared to 10% of over 55s

Collective use of AI for benefit of wider society – key findings

  • 53% of Brits believe AI could be used to predict weather patterns and provide more accurate weather forecasts
  • 53% of people think AI could give commuters better real time traffic information
  • 47% of people think AI could help scientists track climate change in real time
  • respondents see the potential for AI in suggesting how cities could improve traffic flows and travel options
  • 48% of Brits believe AI could automate assembly lines and make factories more efficient
  • Only 10% of people envisage AI being used in the legal system to help determine legal cases

The findings show that older people are more interested in the potential health benefits of AI in the future.

  • 54% of over 55s plus believing AI could be used to help healthcare professionals diagnose illnesses compared to 40% of 18-24yrs
  • 39% of over 55s think AI could help prioritise which patients to treat compared to 29% of 18-24yrs

Sources of more information on AI

The Oxford Internet Institute survey on AI also explored people’s preferred sources of information about AI. The findings show that overwhelming people don’t know where to turn to for reliable sources of information about AI and how it works, with 33% of Brits saying they didn’t know.

  • Of the sources available to them, 34% of Brits want more information from technology companies
  • 30% of people cite news media as a preferred source
  • 27% of people would turn to Government and local authorities for more information on AI.
  • 21% of people cite universities and schools as sources of AI information
  • 16% rated consumer groups, charities and community organisations as credible sources.

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Notes to Editors

About the A-Z of AI

The A-Z of AI is a mobile first experience aimed at providing the user with a baseline understanding of AI technology. The project launched on 25 March 2020 and is funded by Google.

About the survey

The survey of 2001 respondents of UK adults was carried out 4-6 March 2020 by independent research company YouGov.

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