AI for Social Good?

Education Futures researchers Neil Selwyn and Beatriz Gallo Cordoba are the lead authors of a new report on Australians' attitudes towards AI and society.

Produced by the Monash Data Futures Institute, the report presents one of the first comprehensive pictures of Australian public understandings, attitudes and opinions relating to AI and society. 

Based on a nationally-representative public opinion survey of over 2000 Australian adults, the report examines key areas of public understanding, optimism and concern regarding the societal application of AI technologies. As industry and policy-makers continue to develop, implement and manage AI across most areas of Australian society, this report explores the often-overlooked views of the general public – in many ways, the ultimate end users of these powerful technologies.

The survey finds the Australian public to be generally optimistic about the impact of AI on their lives and society, with the majority agreeing that AI will do more social good than social harm.

Some of the key findings are:

  • The majority of the Australian public consider themselves to have little knowledge of artificial intelligence and people's understandings of AI are varied.
  • There are relatively high levels of support from the Australian public for the development of AI and opinions can change if people receive more information about AI and have the chance to consider issues relating to AI and society.
  • There are consistently high levels of support for the use of AI to address social, humanitarian and environmental challenges. People are especially hopeful about the potential benefits of AI in healthcare and medicine for advanced diagnosis, development of medicine and disease treatments.
  • Conversely, the prospect of the increased use of AI in the workplace is seen in mixed terms. The most prevalent fears relate to AI-based surveillance and loss of privacy, alongside the misuse of AI technology by governments and companies acting with malintent.
  • The Australian public has high levels of confidence in CSIRO and university researchers to develop AI in the best interests of the public, but low confidence in Amazon and Facebook to do the same. High levels of confidence are also expressed for independent government bodies such as the Office of The Chief Scientist, and the Australian Human Rights Commissioner. 
  • The majority of the public agrees with the need for industry guidelines and/or new legislation to address all possible harms associated with AI. 
  • There is very strong support for establishing a new regulatory body in Australia to govern and promote responsible innovation in the area of AI. 

Download the report:

AI for Social Good? Australian Public Attitudes Toward AI and Society
Neil Selwyn, Beatriz Gallo Cordoba, Mark Andrejevic, Liz Campbell

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