Business Technology

With AI perceived to be a bigger threat than nuclear weapons, tech bosses have their work cut out for them

3 min read

02 July 2018

Deputy Editor, Real Business

Britain seems to be a reservation nation when it comes to AI, and if it truly wants to be known for being a leader in AI, it will first have to tackle consumer perceptions.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seeping into every aspect of business and life. Most recently it was found that Wimbledon – alongside IBM – used AI to help edit match videos. The technology would pick out highlights based on the emotions of those both on and off the court.

“Recognising player emotion is based on analysis of the broadcast video, and on looking for gesticulation,” Sam Seddon, programme executive at IBM, told the BBC. “For example, fist pumping, arms aloft, hand shaking at the end of a match, and strong demonstrations of emotion such as shouting.”

While it has ramped up the entertainment factor, that technology could so easily spot which emotions would manipulate us into watching a programme doesn’t sit well with Brits.

This was highlighted by YouGov research. Some 41% of respondents exclaimed AI poses the same threat – if not greater – to mankind than nuclear weapons. Another 42% suggested such technology could be on par with chemical weapons.

Over half the population would support international regulation or limitation of AI to certain countries, as is done with nuclear technology and chemical weapons.

The YouGov survey also revealed reservations about the use of robots in home life, with 24% refusing tech help with chores. Only 3% would welcome a robot butler /maid.

Such perceptions don’t bode well for tech companies – specifically those making use of AI. Perhaps in a world dominated by fictional works such as Humans, Westworld and The Terminator, too little is done to highlight the benefits AI can bring.

Nesta tried to put a spotlight on the subject ahead of its FutureFest, which takes places 6-7 July. It is calling for more serious R&D and experiments, as well as more serious efforts to deal with public trust and legitimacy.

The head of Nesta’s Technology Future’s team, Harry Armstrong, proclaimed government and tech companies have been setting the agenda and that’s why people are nervous.

“Aat the moment, too much of the debate is repeating past mistakes when creating digital government,” Armstrong said, “seeing technology as an end not a means, rather than on what’s really needed to make systems more intelligent.”

Britain seems to be a reservation nation when it comes to AI, and if it truly wants to be known for being a leader in AI, it will first have to tackle consumer perceptions.

But what would Brits really trust robots with? The YouGov research was corralled into one infographic, which can be viewed below.