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Optimism about AI improving society is high, but drops with experience developing AI systems


 
 
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While about 60% of KDnuggets readers think AI and Automation will improve society, the optimism drops significantly among those with 4 or more years experience developing AI systems. Should we pay more attention to the experts?



The latest KDnuggets Poll asked

What will be the impact on Society of increased Automation, AI, and Machine Learning?

Based on 588 votes, the overall results show high level of optimism, with 59% thinking the society will become better and only 14% saying it will become worse - see below:

As a result of increased automation and AI, the society

will become better 59%
will not have a significant change 13%
will become worse 14%
not sure 14%

This is very similar to a recent global survey where 61% said that society will become better with increased automation and AI.

However, interesting, surprising, and unsettling findings emerge when we cross-correlate the optimism with experience in developing AI, Machine Learning, and similar systems (2nd question in the poll).

Poll Ai Impact Society Vs Experience
Fig. 1: Impact of AI, Automation on society vs Years of experience developing AI, Machine Learning and similar systems.


We see high level of optimism among people with zero to 4 years of experience - novices (above 60%), with optimism dropping significantly among people with 4 or more years of experience. The sharp division is especially clear in Fig. 2 below.

Poll Ai Impact Society Vs Experience 4years
Fig. 2: Impact of AI, Automation on society for novices (0-4 Years) vs experts (over 4 years of experience).


There is no significant trend with "no change" or "not sure" answers vs experience.

We can also examine results by region. We estimate the years of experience for each answer as the midpoint of the range, and can compute the average years of experience for each region.

To simplify the graph, we compute optimism as % answers: better minus % answers: worse

Poll Ai Impact Society Vs Experience Region
Fig. 3: Impact of AI, Automation on society by region.


Share of voters from each region:
  • US/Canada, 38.1%
  • Europe, 31.6%
  • Asia, 18.9%
  • Latin America, 4.8%
  • Australia/NZ, 3.9%
  • Africa/Middle East, 2.7%
The most optimistic regions are Africa, Asia, and Latin America, while Australia/NZ is the most pessimistic. However, the optimism about AI, Automation clearly declines as average experience increases.

Should we pay more attention to the experts?

The history of climate change science offer a cautionary tale about ignoring expert opinion.

Some experts were already warning about warming climate already in 1970s, but it took another 20-30 years before the general public and politicians started to pay attention. Here is the US there are still powerful interests that continue to deny the reality of climate change.

There are few prominent people today, such as Elon Musk, that warn about "dangerous effects" of AI, but so far they are not taken seriously by the public or politicians.

What do you think? Comment below.