Attitudes towards robots, especially artificially intelligent (AI) robots, are mixed at best. As AI technology evolves and robots become eerily similar to living, breathing, thinking organisms, people seem to be less and less likely to trust them. Robots stir up unsettling memories of science fiction nightmares, images of robots surpassing humans in intelligence and taking over, lording over us and causing mass mayhem.
According to Elon Musk, AI technology is progressing so quickly that we may need to start merging with it soon, essentially becoming cyborgs. It’s easy to see where he gets that notion, considering robots are already threatening to replace lawyers, childcare workers, checkout clerks, and more.
In an effort to gauge public opinion, the European Commission recently conducted a survey that looked at people’s attitudes towards robots, and the results of that effort are now available.
While the general reaction was mostly positive, there are a few areas in which people expressed a fairly obvious distrust. For instance, the study asked participants if there were any areas of work from which robots should be banned and received a significant affirmative response for some industries. For example, 60-61 percent responded that robots should be banned from caring for children, the elderly, and the disabled, 30-34 percent said that robots should be banned from education, and 27-30 percent said that robots should be banned from healthcare.
As AI is already being used within healthcare in the form of IBM Watson, it is easy to imagine that any of these sectors could be home to AI technology and robots in the future. However, the report did show that there are several areas where people are already excited to have robots help propel us forward, with 45-52 percent in favor of their use for space exploration, 50-57 percent for manufacturing, and 41-64 percent for military and security operations.
AI and robotics technology is clearly progressing much faster than many people may have expected and not just in the areas we’d hope. AI robots are no longer a thing of the future, and they will only continue to get more intelligent and more prevalent in our daily lives. It is important to know how people feel about them and what can be done to minimize the risks of a sci-fi-style robot takeover, but it really all comes down to one question: How much do we trust robots?