As digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) become increasingly commonplace, recent Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center research revealed that tech leaders are divided on how much influence individuals will maintain over fundamental decision-making. The study polled 540 professionals in the fields of technology, development, business, policy, research, academia, and activism to determine if they believe that by 2035, AI-powered intelligent machines, bots, and systems will be built to allow humans to easily control most tech-aided decision-making that is relevant to their lives.
Many experts are worried that the increasing automation of business, government, and social systems will lead to the loss of humans’ ability to exercise judgment and make decisions independently. However, only 28% of respondents believed smart machines would prioritize human control over tech-aided decision-making.
Some experts, nevertheless, are still upbeat, reasoning that humans have historically profited from technical developments and that as automated digital systems become more thoroughly intertwined into daily life, new regulations, norms, and literacies will emerge to ameliorate the faults of technology.
A majority of experts (56%) agreed that by 2035, intelligent robots, bots, and systems would not be built to make it easy for humans to control most technology-assisted decision-making, while a minority (44%) indicated they agreed with the opposite assertion.
Both sides agree that this is a watershed moment that will have far-reaching consequences for the future of humanity’s power, autonomy, and agency in the face of the increasing prevalence of digital technology. Experts widely agree that digital technology tools will become increasingly important to people’s ability to decide as they provide massive amounts of information to investigate options and access knowledge as they go through the world.
Nevertheless, black box systems and opaque AI raise concerns that people may lose control of their lives without realizing it. According to the study’s authors, identifying which dynamic is at play in any particular circumstance and anticipating its potential consequences will be difficult.
Participants in the survey stressed the importance of having open, honest dialogues in the public sphere about the risks and benefits of AI advancements and the realities of how these technologies have been developed and implemented by advocates who have exaggerated their potential. They believe individuals have difficulty gaining command of AI systems because they don’t understand how they are constructed, managed, and repaired.