Royal Society study finds UK public mostly optimistic about machine learning
The Royal Society has published a new study that finds that the UK public are mostly optimistic about artificial intelligence technology, according to a report by The Guardian.
The research, which was conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Royal Society, provides insight into the potential of machine learning over the next five to 10 years, as well as how the technology can be developed in a manner that benefits everyone.
Nearly one-third of survey respondents believe that the risks of machine learning outweigh the benefits, while 36 percent believe that the risks and benefits are balanced.
The findings provide support for machine learning, but it depends on what the technology would be used for.
For instance, 22 percent of respondents said the benefits of military robots that use machine learning to make their own decisions outweighed the risks. In addition, only 18 percent of people said that they believed the benefits of computers that learned to play the stock market outweighed the risks.
Conversely, 61 percent of respondents favored facial recognition systems that learn to recognize criminals’ faces from CCTV footage.
The majority of people also saw the benefit in software that recognizes speech and answers questions, a technology which is found on most smartphones.
However, people were more wary of other uses of machine learning. For example, many respondents were sceptical of driverless cars, despite the technology being able to potentially reduce traffic accidents.
The report highlights the recent rapid progress that computer scientists have made in machine learning as well as the potential of “transformative advances” in the next five to 10 years.
“There is huge potential for machine learning to impact in very positive ways on much of what we do as individuals and as industry and as a society. But there are challenges,” said Peter Donnelly, a statistician and geneticist at Oxford University, who led the group that produced the report.
“Society needs to give urgent consideration to the ways in which the benefits from machine learning can be shared across society,” the report stated.
The survey cited a number of risks regarding machine learning including fears of mass unemployment, accidents with equipment, restrictions on freedom, increased economic inequality and a diminished human experience.
The Royal Society report raises several other challenges that will come with the arrival of AI, such as the technology picking up biases (racism and sexism) from training data and not always being able to explain their decisions — two issues that scientists must work on.
The survey results were based on face-to-face interviews with 978 people in the UK, along with discussions at public meetings in Birmingham, Huddersfield, London and Oxford, and questions addressed to an online community of 244 members.