Americans think AI has the most potential to cause harm over next decade

Americans fear more than just AI taking their jobs and believe that the least trusted technologies are AI or AI-related.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Americans have a growing distrust in tech according to a recent survey, and social technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) fare the worst.

Westlake, OH-based content services provider Hyland surveyed 1,000 consumers through a third party to determine how technology has factored into their lives during the pandemic, and how their trust in it has changed as a result.

This distrust in technology is becoming pervasive. Conspiracy theories, while usually of the essentially harmless tin-hat variety, have taken a darker turn as online fearmongering has manifested into real-life violence.

Internet consumers are being heavily influenced to think the worst, especially after a Nashville bomber targeted the downtown AT&T data center, believing in conspiracy theories and shape-shifting aliens.

Although almost three in four (71%) of respondents said that the use of technology had increased during the pandemic -- with 44% said that it had increased significantly. Yet, technology has impacted our trust, and not in a good way.

Social media topped the list of least trusted technologies One in five (20%) have no trust whatsoever, and 32% have very limited trust. For AI, 41% have little or no trust in the technology.

Almost one in five (18%) have no trust whatsoever in chatbots, and 24% have very limited trust. For smart speakers, 15% have no trust whatsoever, 24% have very limited trust.

Americans think AI has most potential to cause harm over the next decade zdnet

Over half (57%) identified AI as the technology that has the most potential to cause harm over the next decade due to misuse, and 51% saw social media as having the most potential to cause harm.

Over one in three (36%) saw facial recognition as having the most potential to cause harm because of misuse. Interestingly, almost half of those 18 to 24 years old saw facial recognition as the tech most likely to be misused, yet only 27% of respondents over the age of 56 held the same concern.

Unfortunately, this distrust fans out across other forms of information – such as health. Almost one in four respondents said they have some distrust or no trust at all in the information on COVID-19 being provided by state leaders.

Over a quarter (26%) of respondents have some no trust or are neutral on their trust toward their own healthcare professionals regarding COVID-19.

However, we do have some trust. Family or friends (41%) are most trusted when learning about new tech, followed by national broadcast news (41%), technology publications (37%), and local news broadcasts (33%).

Over one in four (28%) say that social media is their most trusted source for new technology. Trust seems to come from personal relationships -- not professionals.

It does seem ironic that Americans are more jaded than ever about internet services and information -- especially when considering that technology is how information is consumed -- and conspiracy theories are being sourced.

It's not all bad news and distrust, however. The older the technology, the more it seems to be trusted. Landline telephones are completely trusted by 30%, and 39% have some trust.

Mobile telephones are completely trusted by 31%, and 49% have some trust. Fax machines are completely trusted by 30%, and 44% have some trust in the technology.

Who knows, in 40 years, we will wonder why we ever distrusted AI and smart speakers at all as we come to depend on them in all parts of our lives.

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