Insights into attitudes towards AI-powered technologies
This report provides new insights into the British public’s attitudes towards different AI-powered technologies and AI governance. It comes at a time when governments, private companies, civil society and the public are grappling with the rapid pace of development of AI and its potential impacts across many areas of life.
‘How do people feel about AI?’ provides new insights into the British public’s attitudes towards different AI-powered technologies and AI governance. It comes at a time when governments, private companies, civil society and the public are grappling with the rapid pace of development of AI and its potential impacts across many areas of life.
A key contribution of this survey is that it highlights complex and nuanced views from the public across different AI applications and uses. People identify specific concerns about technologies even when they see them as overall more beneficial than concerning, and acknowledge potential benefits about particular technologies even when they also express concern.
The public are aware of the use of AI in many visible, commonplace technologies, such as the use of facial recognition for unlocking phones, or the use of targeted advertising in social media. However, awareness of AI technologies used in public services with potential high impact on people, like the use of AI for welfare benefits eligibility, is low.
The public typically see advantages of several uses of AI as improving efficiency, and accessibility. However, people worry about the security of their personal data, the replacement of professional human judgements, and the implications for accountability and transparency in decision-making. While applications of AI in health, science, education and security are overall perceived positively, applications in advanced robotics and targeted advertising online are viewed as more concerning.
There is a strong desire among the public for independent regulation, more information on how AI systems make decisions, and the ability to challenge decisions made by AI. Younger adults also tend to place responsibility on the companies developing AI to ensure that the technologies are used safely.
Future work will benefit from understanding how different groups of people in society are impacted differently by various uses of AI. However, this study highlights important considerations for policymakers and developers of AI technologies and how they can help ensure AI technologies work for people and society:
Policymakers and developers of AI systems must work to support public awareness and enhance transparency surrounding the use of less visible applications of AI used in the public domain. This is particularly true for areas that have significant impacts on people’s lives, such as in assessments for benefits, financial support or employment.
The findings show that the public expect many AI technologies to bring improvements to their lives, particularly around speed, efficiency and accessibility. It is important for policymakers and developers of these technologies to meet public expectations, work to strengthen public trust in AI further, and therefore help to maximise the benefits that AI has the potential to bring.
While people are positive about some of the perceived benefits of AI, they also express concerns, particularly around transparency, accountability, and loss of human judgement. As people’s interaction with AI increases across many areas of life, it is crucial for policymakers and developers of AI to listen to public concerns and work towards solutions for alleviating them.
People call for regulation of AI and would like to see an independent regulator in place, along with clear procedures for appealing against AI decisions. Policymakers working on AI regulatory regimes should consider the establishment of an independent regulatory body of AI technologies and ensure that the public have opportunities to seek redress if AI systems fail or make a mistake.
People in older age groups are particularly concerned about the explainability of AI decisions and lack of human involvement in decision-making. It is important for policymakers and civil society organisations to work to ensure older members of society in particular do not feel alienated by the increasing use of AI in many decision-making processes.
Lastly, policymakers must acknowledge that the public have complex and nuanced views about uses of AI, depending on what the technology is used for. Debates or policies will need to go beyond general assumptions or one-size-fits-all approaches to meet the demands and expectations from the public.