Reports  |    |  December 10, 2018

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans

Report written by Janna Anderson, Lee Rainie and Alex Luchsinger.
Published by The Pew Research Center. 123 pages.

Experts say the rise of artificial intelligence will make most people better off over the next decade, but many have concerns about how advances in AI will affect what it means to be human, to be productive and to exercise free will.

Some 979 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists answered this question in a canvassing of experts conducted in the summer of 2018.

The experts predicted networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities. They spoke of the wide-ranging possibilities; that computers might match or even exceed human intelligence and capabilities on tasks such as complex decision-making, reasoning and learning, sophisticated analytics and pattern recognition, visual acuity, speech recognition and language translation. They said “smart” systems in communities, in vehicles, in buildings and utilities, on farms and in business processes will save time, money and lives and offer opportunities for individuals to enjoy a more-customized future.

Many focused their optimistic remarks on health care and the many possible applications of AI in diagnosing and treating patients or helping senior citizens live fuller and healthier lives. They were also enthusiastic about AI’s role in contributing to broad public-health programs built around massive amounts of data that may be captured in the coming years about everything from personal genomes to nutrition. Additionally, a number of these experts predicted that AI would abet long-anticipated changes in formal and informal education systems.

Yet, most experts, regardless of whether they are optimistic or not, expressed concerns about the long-term impact of these new tools on the essential elements of being human. All respondents in this non-scientific canvassing were asked to elaborate on why they felt AI would leave people better off or not. Many shared deep worries, and many also suggested pathways toward solutions. The main themes they sounded about threats and remedies are outlined in the accompanying table. [ . . . ]