Tuesday, July 16, 2024

New AI tools much hyped but not much used, study says

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Very few people are regularly using “much hyped” artificial intelligence (AI) products like ChatGPT, a survey suggests.

Researchers surveyed 12,000 people in six countries, including the UK, with only 2% of British respondents saying they use such tools on a daily basis.

But the study, from the Reuters Institute and Oxford University, says young people are bucking the trend, with 18 to 24-year-olds the most eager adopters of the tech.

Dr Richard Fletcher, the report’s lead author, told the BBC there was a “mismatch” between the “hype” around AI and the “public interest” in it.

The study examined views on generative AI tools – the new generation of products that can respond to simple text prompts with human-sounding answers as well as images, audio and video.

Generative AI burst into the public consciousness when ChatGPT was launched in November 2022.

The attention OpenAI’s chatbot attracted set off an almighty arms race among tech firms, who ever since have been pouring billions of dollars into developing their own generative AI features.

However this research indicates that, for all the money and attention lavished on generative AI, it is yet to become part of people’s routine internet use.

“Large parts of the public are not particularly interested in generative AI, and 30% of people in the UK say they have not heard of any of the most prominent products, including ChatGPT,” Dr Fletcher said.

The new generation of AI products has also sparked an intense public debate about whether they will have a positive or negative impact.

Predicted outcomes have ranged, for the optimists, from a boost to economic growth to the discovery of new live-saving drugs.

The pessimists, meanwhile, have gone so far as to suggest the tech is a threat to humanity itself.

This research attempted to gauge what the public thinks, finding:

  • The majority expect generative AI to have a large impact on society in the next five years, particularly for news, media and science
  • Most said they think generative AI will make their own lives better
  • When asked whether generative AI will make society as a whole better or worse, people were generally more pessimistic

“People’s hopes and fears for generative AI vary a lot depending on the sector,” Dr Fletcher told the BBC.

“People are generally optimistic and about the use of generative AI in science and healthcare, but more wary about it being used in news and journalism, and worried about the effect it might have on job security.”

He said the research showed it was important for everyone, including governments and regulators, to apply nuance to the debate around AI.

The findings were based on responses to an online questionnaire fielded in six countries: Argentina, Denmark, France, Japan, the UK, and the USA.

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