The artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is on the horizon, and it’s creating a stir. The world is excitedly watching as this technology evolves at a lightning pace, promising to usher in new ways to learn, work, and create. However, the very same rapid evolution also stirs fears about misinformation, job insecurity, and potential threats to safety if left unregulated. The discussion around AI involves both optimism and concern, as experts in technology, lawmaking, and research offer their perspectives on how best to approach this new technological advancement.
In an attempt to gauge public sentiment about AI, a recently conducted survey in collaboration with Vox Media’s Insights and Research team and The Circus research consultancy firm. The survey polled over 2,000 adults in the U.S., asking them about their thoughts, feelings, and fears about AI. The results paint a picture of an exhilarating yet uncertain technological landscape where many are yet to experience AI firsthand while others either fear or anticipate its potential.
AI’s presence is undeniable, powering features in our favorite apps and sparking conversations beyond the tech sphere. However, despite media hype, the usage of specialized AI products is still relatively limited, with younger users showing a higher adoption rate. While a considerable number of people are familiar with AI-powered tools like ChatGPT, many others are still unaware of the companies and startups that create them. Nonetheless, the survey shows high expectations for AI’s societal impact, surpassing other emerging technologies such as electric vehicles and NFTs.
The primary driver behind the recent surge in interest is generative AI. These systems can generate text, brainstorm ideas, edit writing, and create images, audio, and video. While these tools are being integrated into professional systems, they often require significant oversight. For those who do use AI tools, creative experiments dominate. People are using AI to generate music and videos, create stories, and experiment with photos. However, above all, AI systems are being used to answer questions, suggesting that chatbots may gradually replace traditional search engines.
A point of contention in the AI arena is the practice of AI image generators like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, which use vast amounts of web-scraped data, often without the original creators’ consent. The ethical and legal implications of this practice are currently under heavy debate and are subject to numerous lawsuits. The survey found mixed feelings about these ethical dilemmas. Most respondents felt that artists should be compensated if an AI tool clones their style, yet they also didn’t want to see the capabilities of these tools limited.
As AI continues to evolve, the demand for better standards and regulations is mounting. The survey revealed that over three-quarters of respondents agree that laws need to be developed to regulate AI. Some of these laws are currently in progress, with the EU AI Act undergoing final negotiations and the U.S. recently holding hearings to establish its own legal framework. The demand for higher standards in AI systems and transparency in their use is clear, but enforcing widely supported principles, such as training AI language models on fact-checked data and banning non-consensual deepfakes, may prove challenging.
When examining the potential and boundaries of AI, it is essential to take into account the opinions of the general public. This understanding can guide us in ensuring that the AI revolution is not only technologically advanced but also ethically sound and widely accepted.
Picture Credit: Freepik