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Australian public understandings of artificial intelligence

Abstract

In light of the growing need to pay attention to general public opinions and sentiments toward AI, this paper examines the levels of understandings amongst the Australian public toward the increased societal use of AI technologies. Drawing on a nationally representative survey of 2019 adults across Australia, the paper examines how aware people consider themselves to be of recent developments in AI; variations in popular conceptions of what AI is; and the extent to which levels of support for AI are liable to alter with additional exposure to information about AI. While a majority of respondents consider themselves to have little knowledge and familiarity with the topic of AI, the survey nevertheless finds considerable range of relatively ‘plausible’ basic understandings of what AI is. Significantly, repeated questioning highlights a willingness among many people to reassess their opinions once having received further information about AI, and being asked to think through issues relating to AI and society. These patterns remain relatively consistent, regardless of respondents’ political orientation, income, social class and other demographic characteristics. As such, the paper concludes by considering how these findings provide support for the development of public education efforts to further enhance what might be termed ‘public understanding of AI’.

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Availability of data and material

Survey dataset is publicly available: https://doi.org/10.26180/13240619..

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Funding

This research was supported by a research grant from the Monash Data Futures Institute.

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Selwyn took primary responsibility for the writing of the introduction, methods, discussion and conclusions. Gallo Cordoba took primarily responsibility for the data analysis and presentation. Both contributed equally to the preparation of the paper.

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Correspondence to Neil Selwyn.

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Selwyn, N., Gallo Cordoba, B. Australian public understandings of artificial intelligence. AI & Soc (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01268-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01268-z

Keywords

  • Public
  • Attitudes
  • Understandings
  • AI
  • Survey