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End of days? One-in-three UK consumers think AI robots will lead to a real-life apocalypse

Published: 22 November 2019 - Sarah Mead

Consumers are terrified of the dystopian futures, often depicted in popular science fiction, becoming a reality. A third (33%) of the UK population are concerned that AI robots will cause a real-life apocalypse according to a new study into consumer attitudes by Kaspersky. Many of the study’s respondents also admit they are overwhelmed by AI, as well as harbouring fears that the technology could one day outsmart mankind.

Rapid development of artificial intelligence and social robotics has led to consumers becoming wary that this technology may threaten humanity. In fact, almost four-in-10 respondents (39%) are terrified that the worst-case scenarios of AI and smart devices turning bad – as highlighted in films and TV shows such as The Terminator and i,Robot – could come true.

Despite the rise in the number of smart devices and services on the market, consumers still fear that humans could one day be intellectually inferior to robots. Nearly four-in-10 (39%) of us are concerned that AI robots will outsmart mankind by 2045 and the same number admit to being scared of robots programmed with emotions. Surprisingly, this particular answer jumps to 55% amongst 25 to 34-year-olds – those who, one might assume, are more accustomed to using AI technology than other generations.

As part of its investigation into public attitudes towards AI, Kaspersky found Millennials are more worried than other demographics. Nearly half (49%) fear Hollywood-style worst-case scenarios, with 44% concerned that AI robots will cause a real-life apocalypse.

“We must all do our part in playing down any scaremongering or misinformation about AI technology. While some products and services, like smart speakers, may seem incredibly intelligent and capable of seamlessly meeting our needs, they are all designed with a defined, specific purpose,” comments David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky.

“The key thing for consumers to remember is that while AI solutions cannot outsmart them, they can be hacked by cybercriminals who could pose a real risk. There is a very long way to go if such technology is ever going to threaten civilization without human intervention, and it is even estimated that developers are more than a century away from creating true AI.”

Besides the doomsday outcomes raised above, consumers also have more immediate concerns about how AI will influence the workplace. For instance, 60% are concerned that jobs could be replaced by AI technology in the future. Almost half (49%) agree that today’s children will find it hard to get a job in adulthood because of AI technology.

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