Midwest and the South fear robots, study says

According to a new study, the coasts are excited about our new robot overlords, while the rest of the country shivers in fear.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

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Are you brushing up on your Robots For Dummies?

Before you become a dummy to a robot, that is.

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Or do you fear the coming horror when machines won't merely control how the world works, but also tell humans how to behave and what to do? Whatever humans are allowed to remain, that is.

I only ask because of pulsating survey that's descended exclusively onto my screen.

It asked 2,207 Americans whether they were already using artificial intelligence and whether they were excited at the prospect of it solving so many local problems.

Now I know we live in a divided nation, but the results of this survey suggest even the robots will have a hard time bringing us back together.

While 52 percent of New Yorkers, 54 percent of Angelenos, and 55 percent of San Franciscans all claimed to be somewhat or very excited at the coming of AI, the South and the Midwest looked on in horror.

In the Midwest, a mere 19 percent said they experienced any level of excitement. In the South, the number sank to a piffling 17 percent.

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Perhaps you might think there was a lot of indifference. Well, I can tell you that, in the Midwest, 27 percent said they thoroughly hated the idea of AI, and in the South, 33 percent felt the same.

I'll tiptoe gently around the geopolitics here.

I'll merely mention that the study was performed on behalf of Conversica, which claims to artificially create engaging conversations and, in large letters on its website, promises: "Artificial intelligence will help you find your next customer."

My next artificial customer? Or my next real one?

Some might perceive an oddity here. Seventy-two percent of these Americans admitted that they already use AI through Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa.

Presumably, they're enchanted by these services and the sheer joy of talking to machines. What, then, could anyone fear?

Is it the idea of losing their jobs? Not according to the survey's sponsor.

Conversica's chief marketing officer, Carl Landers, told me: "It's not surprising that many Americans see the benefits of AI, particularly on the coasts, where people face more challenges with problems such as traffic and homelessness and are looking to technology for solutions."

Are they?

Another argument might be that the Midwest and the South still embrace some sort of culture handed-down through generations -- while the coasts, well, they just worship lovely lucre. Don't they? (Even if they're doing a lot of yoga to ease the pressure of getting that lovely lucre.)

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I do, though, want to end on an optimistic note, one that tries to identify something that unites us.

This survey asked which of life's problems were a priority for AI to solve. Sadly, there was only one majority verdict: 51 percent of Americans believe a top priority for AI is to cure disease.

As for the next priority for AI, 44 percent believe it should end traffic and road accidents.

What about educating our children, I hear you cry? Well, only 36 percent think that's a priority for AI, too.

You see, there's hope. Most Americans still think children should be educated by humans.

How ubiquitous AI will permeate everything we do without our knowledge.

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