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New survey shows growing number of Canadians are using AI despite fears

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When it comes to the latest Artificial intelligence technology it really depends on who you ask.

Jayden Dedam is a student at New Brunswick Community College in Moncton and he says that he currently uses AI, specifically Chat GPT.

“I mostly use it for research. I think that it’s really helpful when you’re not really too sure on a certain subject, you get to learn a lot about it. It’s kind of like talking to a friend who knows a lot of things really,” he said.

Adding, “It is something that I’m very interested in especially because I am interested in software development as well, so it is something I want to look into.”

A new survey put out by Leger suggests that as a whole though, Canadians have mixed feelings about the technology.

Results showed that 36 per cent of Canadians say AI is good for society, 25 per cent say it’s bad for society and 39 per cent of those surveyed didn’t know or preferred not to answer.

Reginald Hebert, a Moncton resident, doesn’t think it will have a positive role in today’s society.

“It’s got a lot of potential, there’s a lot of things that you could do with artificial intelligence that would make our lives better, safer, more peaceful, more healthier, manage hospitals better, manage government budgets better, actually invest the money where it might be better served in five years instead of the next election,” he said.

“All of these things could be done better with artificial intelligence as a tool, but it’s not going to be used as a tool, it’s going to be used for marketing implement, it’s going to be used for scammers, it’s going to be used for a variety of other things that will probably negate the potential benefits that artificial intelligence could give the human race.”

He says it’s a tool that’s been developed by really smart people, but that isn’t how he sees it being used down the line.

“Everything’s going to go a lot faster with AI. Things are going to get created. You’re going to be getting calls from someone that you think you know, telling you that they are somewhere that they need your help, but it’s not really them. You’re going to be seeing this more and more,” he said.

The recent survey from Leger points out that Canadians are conflicted when it comes to AI.

“I wasn’t around following public opinion trends, 40 odd years ago when the internet was bursting onto the scene, but I might say to myself that maybe some of our reactions aren’t that dis-similar to some degree,” said Andrew Enns, the executive vice-president for Leger.

Enns points to the fact that many people seem okay with AI elements that have been around longer like google thermostats, Alexa or facial recognition on a cell phone, but there are some reservations when it comes to things like artificial intelligence finding the perfect romantic match online.

Looking at the data, while the number of Canadians using AI has increased from 25 per cent to 30 per cent since last year, two-thirds of respondents still think the prospect of it in their lives is scary.

“The general lack of emotion, I think that’s where people really struggle,” said Enns.

“How can a program or a machine actually answer these things with that emotion and compassion and I think that’s something that we’re still getting out heads around as Canadians.”

According to the results, 75 per cent say AI tools lack the emotion and empathy required to make good decisions.

Like all technology, digital anthropologist Giles Crouch says artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword.

“People are starting to play with it a little bit more. They’re realizing that there are some good ways to use it,” he said.

“I’ve asked it to summarize some pretty complex issues and it usually does a pretty good job, but sometimes it has given me the wrong facts. If I didn’t have that subject matter expertise, I wouldn’t know that was an incorrect fact and I’d use it and that would be wrong.”

He says it can also help students and those in knowledge industries, but because it’s still in the very early days, people have to still be cautious and wary of it.

“It’s not until a revolutionary technology comes into the world that we can touch and that we can play with that we seem to understand it and see what the dangerous are and the opportunities,” he said.

Adding, “Sometimes the reason the technology comes into the world, isn’t the way that it ends up getting used, but the way that we react is usually through fear because we don’t understand how this technology works and we don’t understand how it’s going to impact our daily lives and that’s called culture.”

Crouch also points out that there could be a hiccup when it comes to artificial relationships.

“What we tend to do with technology is we anthropomorphize them, so we put human qualities onto technology. We call cars he and she, we name them, we’re doing that same thing with artificial intelligence and that’s dangerous because they’re machines,” he said.

“They don’t have emotions. They don’t have feelings. They don’t have consciousness, they have no intelligence whatsoever, they’re just predictive analytics. That’s all they are.”

While it is a newer system right now, Crouch says historically, culture has always found what works and what doesn’t and has pushed back against what needs to be fixed, which he suspects will happen the exact same way with AI technology.

Other statistics that were found in the survey were that 81 per cent believe society will become too dependent on AI, 70 per cent say AI threatens human jobs and 60 per cent says the prospect of AI in our lives is scary.

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