60% of people expect artificial intelligence to improve their daily lives, WEF finds

But significant number of respondents say use of this new technology makes them nervous

Oz, a fully autonomous farming robot made by Naio Technologies, during a media preview event at CES 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

While six in 10 people globally expect artificial intelligence to revolutionise their daily lives, a majority are concerned about its potential impact on fundamental freedoms and rights, a report by the World Economic Forum showed.

About 60 per cent of respondents said that products and services using AI will make their lives easier, but 40 per cent admitted that the use of this technology makes them nervous.

Only 37 per cent of those surveyed expected AI to improve their situation when it comes to freedom and legal rights.

To trust AI, people must know and understand exactly what the technology is, what it is doing and its impact, Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of AI and machine learning at the WEF, said.

“Leaders and companies must make transparent and trustworthy AI a priority as they implement this technology … we are focused on multi-stakeholder collaboration to optimise accountability, transparency, privacy and impartiality to create that trust,” Ms Firth-Butterfield said.

The WEF report is based on the findings of a 28-country survey conducted by Ipsos that interviewed 19,504 adults under the age of 75 between November 19 and December 3 last year.

Globally, the AI market is booming as governments invest in technology to drive efficiency and savings in the post-pandemic era.

The UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, is projected to benefit the most in the Middle East from AI adoption. The technology is expected to contribute up to 14 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product — equivalent to $97.9 billion — by 2030, a report from consultancy firm PwC showed.

Overall, investors poured money into AI-focused companies at a historic rate during the Covid-19 pandemic, a separate study by Stanford University showed.

Total global AI investment — including private investment, public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and minority stakes — increased by 40 per cent in 2020 for a total of $67.9bn, compared with a 12 per cent jump from 2018 to 2019, the Stanford study said.

For this survey, AI was defined as computers and robots doing things that usually require human intelligence. Almost two thirds of respondents claimed that they have a good understanding of what AI is, based on this definition, but only half said that they knew which types of products and services use AI.

The WEF report also highlights a clear divide between high-income and emerging economies in attitudes towards AI, with optimism higher in emerging economies.

Some 80 per cent of respondents in China and Saudi Arabia expected AI to change their lives, but less than half said the same in Canada, Germany, France, the UK and the US.

hen asked whether AI would make their lives easier, respondents were more likely to be optimistic in less economically developed countries. For example, 70 per cent of those surveyed in Peru agreed that AI would have more benefits, as opposed to only 31 per cent in France, 32 per cent in Canada and 35 per cent in the US.

The areas that people expect to change the most due to AI are education and learning (35 per cent), safety (33 per cent), employment (32 per cent), shopping (31 per cent) and transport (30 per cent).

Only half of respondents said they trusted companies that use AI at the same level as those that do not, with trust in companies that use AI highly correlated with reported familiarity with the technology, the WEF said.

A majority of respondents in emerging countries said they trusted companies that use AI as much as other companies, most notably in China (76 per cent) and India (68 per cent), whereas, only about one third of survey respondents in many high-income countries, including Canada, France, the US and Australia, trusted AI-powered companies.

“With the ability to solve many of society’s pressing issues, we are focused on accelerating the benefits and mitigating the risks of AI and machine learning,” said Ms Firth-Butterfield.

“Only then can we gain public trust and benefit from the rewards of emerging tech like AI.”

Good understanding of AI ranged from lows of 41 per cent in Japan and 42 per cent in Italy, to highs of 78 per cent in South Africa, 76 per cent in Chile and 75 per cent in Russia.

Updated: January 06, 2022, 11:31 AM