"Trust is the currency of the AI era."

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AI isn't nearly as popular with the global populace as its boosters would have you believe.

As Axios reports based on a new poll of 32,000 global respondents from the consultancy firm Edelman, public trust is already eroding less than 18 months into the so-called "AI revolution" that popped off with OpenAI's release of ChatGPT in November 2022.

"Trust is the currency of the AI era, yet, as it stands, our innovation account is dangerously overdrawn," Justin Westcott, the global technology chair for the firm, told Axios. "Companies must move beyond the mere mechanics of AI to address its true cost and value — the 'why' and 'for whom.'"

Despite Silicon Valley's insistence that AI is trustworthy, recent polling —  including but far from limited to Edelman's — indicates that people are divided about whether the tech is there to help, and trust is falling.

Trust in AI is down globally from 61 percent in 2019 to just 53 percent, per the Edelman poll. In the US, where employment insecurity is on the rise and an untold number of people either have lost jobs to AI or expect to, that percentage is lower, with just 35 percent of people now saying they trust the tech whereas 50 said they trusted it five years ago.

That dip in percentages since 2019 isn't all that surprising. Before 2022, AI was more the stuff of science fiction and quiet institutional navelgazing than an actual reality. With ChatGPT, those distant concerns about AI taking jobs — or perhaps enslaving us all — suddenly became much more present, and everyone got more hands-on time with the tech.

Management Styles

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the firm's "trust barometer" is that on average, people across the world believe by a two-to-one margin that AI innovation thus far has been "badly managed," as CEO Richard Edelman said in a statement about the poll.

What's more, although a whopping 76 percent of people trust the tech industry in general, only half trust AI, a gap that certainly needs further exploration as tech giants like Microsoft and Meta keep investing heavily in it.

Overall, the Edelman respondents indicated that they look towards scientists to inform them on AI safety, providing an opportunity for the research community to step up as authorities on the subject.

"Those who prioritize responsible AI, who transparently partner with communities and governments, and who put control back into the hands of the users, will not only lead the industry but will rebuild the bridge of trust that technology has, somewhere along the way, lost," Wescott told Axios.

More on AI trust: Scientists Have a Dirty Secret: Nobody Knows How AI Actually Works

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