Australians have relatively high levels of concern about artificial intelligence (AI), and are sceptical about the number of jobs it will create, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU). 

The study shows Australians are much more likely to think other areas of science such as solar and wind energy will have a positive impact on our lives over the next 20 years.  

Lead author Professor Nick Biddle said only 20 per cent of Australians were more excited than concerned about AI. The most common response, given by 45.4 per cent of Australians, was that they were equally excited and concerned. The remaining 34.4 per cent were more concerned than excited.

Just 17.4 per cent of Australians think AI will create more jobs than it eliminates. 

Professor Nick Biddle. Photo: Lannon Harley/ANU.

“We also found that how well-informed someone is can play a significant role in their views towards science more generally,” Professor Biddle said. 

“There were more negative views amongst those who said they were not very well informed. 

“This was even more apparent when it came to COVID-19 and the role of science. Only 55.2 per cent of those who said that they were not informed about science at all thought science had a positive impact when it came to COVID-19.” 

Age also played a role, with those aged 18 to 24 more likely to say they were well informed on science compared to other age groups. 

The study looked at Australians’ interest in all aspects of science, as well as their knowledge, concerns and views on science, scientists and science policy. 

“In general, Australians have quite positive attitudes towards science,” Professor Biddle said. 

“They think that politicians should rely more on the advice of scientists. They also think scientists should be free to comment on government policies, and that governments should invest in science. 

“But, they also don’t think that research conducted by industry is well controlled or regulated, and they certainly think that there should be limits on what science is allowed to investigate.”  

Surprisingly, the area of science and technology that Australians were most indifferent towards was space exploration, with almost two-in-five Australians – 19.4 per cent – thinking that it would have no effect.  

Despite this, there were still far more Australians who thought it would have a positive impact (67.4 per cent in total) compared to a negative impact (13.1 per cent). 

This study uses data collected from almost 4,500 Australian adults as part of the ANUPoll series of surveys, conducted in April 2023. 

The full report is available online.

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