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Don't Be Fooled By Artificial Conventional Wisdom About Artificial Intelligence

17/11/2015 10:44 GMT | Updated 16/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Scientists agree that machines will begin to think for themselves in the near future. What is often less clear is how the British public feel about Artificial Intelligence (AI). When discussion and column inches are centred on warnings about the end of humanity, the potential for AI to threaten jobs and humanoid robots running through the woods, the British public could be forgiven for feeling slightly apprehensive.

So should we be worried? New research conducted by Rocket Fuel reveals a British public more at ease with the advance of AI than the worlds and imagery of Channel 4's Humans, Transcendence, Ex Machina and Her let on.

What do the British public really think, beyond the media commentary and television shows? Could belief in the power of AI simply be the domain of 14 year old Terminator fans?

The research shows that not only do the vast majority of the British public (92%) claim an understanding of what AI is, compared to just 8% who say that they do not know what it is, but just 1 in 10 Brits believe that AI is a force for evil. Surprisingly, nearly half of people believe that AI is something that is already currently used in everyday life (49%). Indeed, a lot less people think of AI as a threat to humanity than those who believe AI could help solve big world problems.

The research reveals a broad optimism from the British public and excitement for the advantages that AI could bring to medicine, technology and business, which is possibly surprisingly considering the array or warnings and interventions by high-profile and respected public figures. It finds that Brits predominantly believe that AI will have no effect on their job and also that as many people believe it will have a positive effect on their job (10%) as believe it will threaten it (9%).

The truth is that AI is already making a practical and positive impact in a number of industries. In the marketing world today, for example, new roles, skills and opportunities are on the rise. Many of the jobs people have now were not even in existence a decade or two ago, such as SEO consultants, social media experts and mobile and web app developers. AI is active within all of our daily lives whether we realise it or not, and is on a path to challenge the boundaries of exploration, development, medicine, technology, business and marketing.

It can only be good news that the British public are proving not just to be open-minded, sober and relaxed, but positive and ambitious about AI and the possibilities that AI could bring. It is important that we start to have the debate about the role and boundaries for AI, not just to avoid the potential pitfalls, but to construct a future where AI improves the world for all of us. But whilst it may not sell films or television shows, those who believe that AI could quietly and unobtrusively free up human creative potential and create a myriad of new roles and opportunities that currently we could not even begin to imagine, are not alone.