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UK Consumers Open Minded About Machine Learning

Awareness of technology’s applications high

April 27, 2017 | Artificial Intelligence

Machine learning takes the heavy lifting out of interpreting and responding to the vast swathes of digital data available in the world today. The term refers to computers or software that can “learn” without being explicitly programmed.

Awareness of Select Machine Learning Applications Among Consumers in Great Britain, Feb 2016 (% of respondents)

February 2016 data from Ipsos MORI for the Royal Society found that large proportions of consumers ages 15 and older in Great Britain were aware of various machine learning applications. Digital assistants, driverless cars and facial recognition applications were each cited by around three-quarters of survey respondents as technologies that they had either seen or heard about.

The term “machine learning” itself, however, was much less commonly understood. Just 9% of consumers had heard of it.

Primary Attitude Toward Select Machine Learning Applications Among Consumers in Great Britain, Feb 2016 (% of respondents)

What of the concerns around machine learning, though? Hollywood has long cautioned against “the rise of the machines,” but the survey results indicated an even split when it came to public opinion regarding the risks and benefits involved.

While 29% felt that the risks outweighed the benefits, the same proportion said the opposite, and 36% felt the risks and benefits of machine learning were equal.

When it came to certain applications of the technology, respondents saw little wrong with using machine learning. For example, only 15% felt that facial recognition software represented a risk; 61% viewed this use case positively.

However, Hollywood might be onto something. Almost half of respondents didn’t like the idea of intelligent, autonomous robots being used by the armed forces.

Bill Fisher

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