Artificial Intelligence rather than human ignorance?

23 January 2018

Whether we are looking for the best route to a travel destination, a quick online translation or choosing a new television series we would like to watch – services based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) have already permeated our daily lives. Most residents of Germany would not only turn to AI for advice in certain situations, they would even allow it to make decisions for them. Accordingly, 15 percent indicate that they would be more willing to accept a decision made by AI than by a human with regard to an application for credit with a bank. 10 percent would rather face AI than a human judge in court after a traffic accident, for example. 9 percent would be prepared to allow AI to decide the question of a pay rise sooner than they would their boss, and the same number thinks it is reasonable to seek a decision from AI in a difference of opinion with their partner, if they cannot agree on a major purchase, for example.

This is the result of a representative survey conducted amoung 1,006 German residents aged 14 and above which was commissioned by the digital association Bitkom. Almost 3 out of 10 (29 percent) of the respondents cannot imagine entrusting AI to decide in any of these example situations. This means that in certain situations overall 6 out of 10 German residents (58 percent) would rather AI made the decision than a person, only 4 out of 10 (40 percent) reject the idea completely. “The potential of Artificial Intelligence for improving our lives is enormous – whether in health or education matters, or in administration. It offers huge opportunities for companies and today already enjoys an astonishingly high level of acceptance among the population. At the same time, the basic principle should apply according to which a human must always be the final arbiter in centralised decisions, with assistance from AI”, says Bitkom President Achim Berg. “In other countries, AI research is being driven by strong commitment, including financial aid. Here in Germany we must do everything in our power to take full advantage of the potential of AI for the digital society, and at the same time resolve the many unanswered legal and ethical questions it raises.”

Whereas the survey found there was hardly any difference between the sexes with regard to accepting AI decisions, older people are generally still more sceptical of the idea. Of the respondents aged 65 or older, a majority of 56 percent indicated that in general they would not be willing to accept any AI decisions over a decision made by a human.

Note on methodology: These statements are based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research  and commissioned by  Bitkom. 1,006 German residents aged 14 and above took part in the telephone survey. The survey is representative. The survey was structured to address the following question: “If you think about your personal life: In which of the following situations would you accept a decision made by Artificial Intelligence rather than one reached by a person?”