Global public opinion split on benefits of AI, finds new Oxford study
7 October 2020
- Almost half (47%) of North Americans worried about use of AI in public life
- Chinese respondents least concerned about potential harms of AI in our daily lives
- Business more optimistic than other industry sectors about benefits of AI
In a new study by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, Global Attitudes towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Automated Decision Making, analysis shows that public perceptions on the use of AI in public life is divided, with populations in the West, generally more worried about AI than those in the East.
The study, co-authored by doctoral researcher Lisa-Maria Neudert, Dr Aleksi Knuutila, and Professor Philip N. Howard, is based on analysis of survey data from the 2019 World Risk Poll, published by the Lloyds Register Foundation powered by Gallup, which examines peoples’ perceptions of global risks across 142 countries. It is the second in a series of reports from the Oxford Commission on AI and Good Governance (OxCAIGG), which seeks to advise world leaders on effective ways to use AI and machine learning in public administration and governance.
The Oxford researchers examined the 2019 World Risk Poll data in relation to public attitudes towards the development of AI in the future, in particular, whether people think AI would help or mostly harm people in next twenty years.
The findings show significant regional differences, with North Americans and Latin Americans most sceptical about the benefits of AI, with at least 40% of their populations believing AI will be harmful, whilst only 25% of those living in South East Asia and just 11% of those living in East Asia expressed similar concerns.
Researcher and lead author of the study, Lisa Maria-Neudert, Oxford Internet Institute, said:
“Understanding public confidence in AI and machine learning is vital to the successful implementation of such systems in government. Our analysis suggests that putting AI to work for good governance will be a two-fold challenge. Involving AI and machine learning systems in public administration is going to require inclusive design, informed procurement, purposeful implementation and persistent accountability.
Additionally, it will require convincing citizens in many countries around the world that the benefits of using AI in public agencies outweighs the risks.”
Other findings include:
- Only 9% of Chinese people perceive AI as risky, which is significantly lower than in other regions
- Business executives and government officials are the most optimistic about AI, with 47% of those professionals believing AI will mostly help
- Construction and service workers (35%) are the least confident about the role of automated decision making in society
Notes for editors
About the research
The Oxford study is based on analysis of data from the World Risk Poll 2019, published by the Lloyds Register Foundation. The Poll comprises survey data from 154,195 participants living in 142 countries with interviews carried out between May 2019 and January 2020.
The Oxford Commission on AI and Good Governance launched in July 2020. Its mission is to investigate the procurement and implementation challenges surrounding the use of AI for good governance faced by democracies around the world, identify best practices for evaluating and managing risks and benefits, and recommend strategies in an effort to take full advantage of technological capacities while mitigating potential harms of AI-enabled public policy.
About the OII
The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet. Drawing from many different disciplines, the OII works to understand how individual and collective behaviour online shapes our social, economic and political world. Since its founding in 2001, research from the OII has had a significant impact on policy debate, formulation and implementation around the globe, as well as a secondary impact on people’s wellbeing, safety and understanding. Drawing on many different disciplines, the OII takes a combined approach to tackling society’s big questions, with the aim of positively shaping the development of the digital world for the public good.