CDEI says public have mixed feelings about data and AI

The public increasingly recognises the potential societal benefits of data use but has ongoing anxieties linked to AI. 

This is according to the latest findings from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), which published the third version of its tracker survey on public attitudes to data and AI

The Tracker Survey interviewed 4,000 members of the UK public, alongside 200 interviews with digitally excluded adults to ensure their views are reflected in the work.

It found that the cost of living, health and the economy were identified by the public as the most promising places in which data can be leveraged for societal good. However, concerns about equity persist with regards to the older population and the digitally excluded. 

Awareness and understanding of AI has increased significantly over the last twelve months according to the latest tracker, which found that 95% of people have heard of AI compared with 89% the previous year. Meanwhile, 66% feel able to explain what it is, at least partially, compared with 56% the previous year. 

However, as experience and understanding in AI grows, people are also becoming more pessimistic about its impact on society. While respondents said they expect it to produce increased day-to-day convenience and improved public services, apprehensions remain about job displacement and human de-skilling. 

It found that people’s comfort with the use of AI is dependent on the specific context. For example, there was a positive response to the prospect of AI being used in detecting cancer and identifying people needing financial support, but an aversion to it being used to mark students’ homework or assess a person’s risk of failing to repay a loan.

Encouragingly the survey shows that effective risk mitigation strategies can reduce the impact of risks on the public’s appetite for AI use.

Unlocking potential

“It is crucial that we engage with the people who will be affected to understand how they want these innovative technologies to be used and regulated,” Sylvie Hobden, Head of Public Attitudes at CDEI and Dea Begaj, Public Attitudes Researcher at CDEI, said in a blog post discussing the tracker survey.

"Public engagement, including this tracker survey, will play an important role in ensuring that these guardrails foster justified public trust and equitable outcomes as the technology continues to evolve.”

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