In the case of robotics, specific benefits vary depending on the area in which the AI is applied, with accessibility and speed being the most common benefits.
Accessibility is the most commonly selected benefit for robotic technologies that can make day-to-day activities easier for people who otherwise might not be physically able to do them (driverless cars and vacuum cleaners), highlighting positive perceptions, and potentially high expectations, around AI making tasks easier for all of society.
Table 5: Most commonly selected benefits for technologies using robotics
‘Which of the following, if any, are ways you think the use of this technology will be beneficial?’
|Autonomous weapons||1 Preserve soliders’ lives||54%|
|3 Fewer civilians harmed||36%|
|Driverless cars||1 Improve accessibility||63%|
|2 Fewer accidents||32%|
|3 More accurate than human drivers||32%|
|Robotic care assistants||1 Faster and easier||47%|
|2 More accurate than professionals||45%|
|3 Less discriminatory||37%|
|Robotic vacuum cleaners||1 Improve accessibility||84%|
|2 Save time||68%|
|3 More accurate than humans||12%|
People are concerned about a lack of human interaction in AI technologies, the potential overreliance on the technology at the expense of human judgement and issues of who to hold accountable when the technology makes a mistake. As with benefits, concerns also vary depending on where robotics are applied.
For robotic care assistants, people note significant advantages relating to efficiency (that is, faster, and more accurate). However, people are most worried about the potential loss of human interaction (78% worry that ‘patients will miss out on the human interaction they would otherwise get from human carers’), suggesting that people do not want AI-powered technologies to replace human-to-human care.
This is consistent with findings from the Public Attitudes to Science survey in 2019, which found that people were concerned that the use of AI and robotics in healthcare would reduce human interaction, and that the public were open to the idea of the use of this technology to support, rather than replace, a doctor.
Nearly half of people identify concerns relating to the technology leading to job cuts to human caregiving professionals (46%), and that it would be difficult to assign responsibility for what went wrong if the robot care assistant made a mistake (45%).
In the case of driverless cars, the most selected concerns relate to: lack of reliability (62% chose ‘the technology will not always work, making the cars unreliable’); accountability for mistakes (59% chose ‘if the technology makes a mistake, it will be difficult to know who is responsible for what went wrong’); and lack of clarity on how decisions were made (51% chose ‘it will be more difficult to understand how the car makes decisions compared to a human driver’).
Similarly, people’s concerns about autonomous weapons centre on overreliance on the technology (selected by 54%) and lack of clarity on who would be responsible if the technology made a mistake (selected by 53%).
Table 6: Most commonly selected concerns for technologies using robotics
‘Which of the following, if any, are concerns that you have about the use of this technology?’
|Autonomous weapons||1 Overreliance on technology||54%|
|2 Accountability for mistakes||53%|
|Driverless cars||1 Unreliable||62%|
|2 Accountability for mistakes||59%|
|3 Transparency in decision-making||51%|
|Robotic care assistants||1 Loss of human interaction||78%|
|2 Job cuts||46%|
|3 Accountability for mistakes||45%|
|Robotic vacuum cleaners||1 Unreliable||45%|
|2 Less accurate than humans||42%|