AI is already proving it can bring enormous societal benefits. Yet, there is a lack in understanding of AI’s potential within society. It speeds up cancer diagnoses, helps farmers feed the world and keeps kids safe – so can Artificial Intelligence really be so bad?

SwissCognitiveSilently transforming industries with technical innovation, AI promises a social shift on the same scale as the industrial, technical, and digital revolutions. Despite the promise of solving world problems and keeping families safe and healthy, A.I. cannot realise its full potential until gaps in understanding of the technology – and the public’s resulting trust – are fully addressed. Recent research conducted by the Royal Society Machine Learning Working Group showed that only nine per cent of people surveyed knew the term ‘machine learning’ (a branch of AI) and three per cent knew a great deal about it. Popular understandings are gleaned from representations in pop culture: the first A.I. robot hit the screens in the 1927 sci-fi movie Metropolis and since then a steady flow of movies from The Matrix to Ex-Machina have brought the technology to life. Today, friendlier, more helpful examples of AI like Amazon’s Alexa are helping to form the public perception of the technology – but could they confidently tell you how it works?

Education and Awareness is Key

The clearest message to take away from Royal Society Machine Learning Working Group research, is the importance of providing information and educating people on machine learning, in order to drive awareness. At a recent Intel panel discussion on the relationship between artificial intelligence and humans, Jeremy Wyatt, Professor of robotics and AI at the University of Birmingham, challenged popular perceptions of AI’s role in society: “We’re going to create an AI zoo, not an AI human”. Jeremy is right, we are not creating AI that can solve all problems to replace human intelligence, but we are developing AI technology to support specific tasks to create a smarter, more efficient future.

We can’t underestimate the importance of AI systems for society in the future. It is essential that we continue to finesse the interaction between humans and machines, as the technology is incorporated into an ever-increasing number of devices. One exemplary case of artificial intelligence in action is the Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which is using AI to help speed up the search for vulnerable children. With only 25 analysts, the team has to work through all of the data received, including the hundreds of tips they receive a day, which usually takes weeks to follow up on. […]