Most Americans think AI will destroy other people’s jobs, not theirs

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AI is a problem for jobs, most Americans say, but it's a problem for others.
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of American adults believe that artificial intelligence "will eliminate more jobs than it creates," according to a Gallup poll. But, the same survey found that less than a quarter (23 percent) of people were "worried" or "very worried" about the automation that would affect them personally. In particular, these figures vary according to education. For respondents with only a bachelor's degree of four years or less, 28 percent were concerned that AI would take their job; for people with at least a bachelor's degree, that figure was 15 percent.
These numbers tell a family story. They come from a Gallup survey of more than 3,000 people on automation and artificial intelligence. New details were published this week, but they echo the findings of previous reports.
A survey conducted by Quartz last year found that 90 percent of respondents thought that up to half of all jobs would be lost by automation in five years, but 91 percent said "there is no risk to my work." Another Pew Research Center study in 2016 found the same thing: 65 percent of respondents said that within 50 years automation would take "a large part" of the work currently done by humans, but 80 percent thought that Your own work would still exist in that period of time.
Will the AI ​​destroy jobs or create them? Nobody really knows
On the surface, these responses suggest complacency, ignorance or myopia, but also reflect a deep division among experts about exactly what effects the new technology will have on the workplace. Studies that attempt to estimate job losses caused by advances in robotics and AI vary greatly. Some claim that up to 1 billion jobs will be destroyed in general by 2022, while others predict that by 2030, up to 800 million jobs will be lost worldwide, but more will be obtained from that number. As expected, the methodology in these studies also varies. What counts as "AI" and when a job is "destroyed" is under debate.
Historically, however, it is the happiest scenario that has ever been true: technology generally leads to a net gain in jobs, destroying some professions but creating new ones in the process. What is different this time, say some economists and experts in artificial intelligence, is that machines are qualitatively smarter than in the past, and historical examples do not offer a useful comparison. This position is sometimes presented as an apocalyptic scenario in which AI and automation lead to mass unemployment.
Given these contradictory predictions, it is not surprising that most Americans think that automation is an alien problem. After all, enough people say it's a problem, but not many people will see their own work and think, "Yes, a computer could probably do all this." This is not ignorance either. Even in high-risk industries such as truck driving, automation can not be greater. A computer can drive on a highway, yes, but it can not repair a truck, download its inventory, argue with useless warehouse managers or even refill the gas tank. Not yet, anyway.
The recently published findings of the Gallup survey also show that, to a certain extent, the use of AI is already widespread in the United States. Nearly nine in 10 Americans (85 percent) use at least one of six devices or services that use artificial intelligence functions, Gallup says. 84% of people use navigation applications such as Waze, and 72% use streaming services such as Netflix. 47% use digital assistants on their smartphones, and 22% use them on devices such as Amazon & # 39; s Echo.
This definition of AI-enhanced products may seem too broad, but it contains an important lesson that is relevant to our predictions about job loss. It shows that AI is not a singular entity. It is a process, something that is integrated into products and jobs little by little. You may not believe that Netflix's predictions about what you want to see count as artificial intelligence (or that they are even smart), but they have helped the service steal viewers from traditional cable and television companies by shaping the Sample creation as House of Cards. Measuring this type of impact in economic surveys is understandably difficult.
What the Gallup poll helps illustrate is that AI is not a mystical event that will change the world overnight at some time in the future. It is something that is already happening, both large and small. As Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, told The New York Times: "Whether they know it or not, AI has already moved to a large percentage of Americans' lives in one way or another."

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