But not too intelligent: Britons not comfortable with smarter AI
January 15th, 2024, Christien Pheby

But not too intelligent: Britons not comfortable with smarter AI

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman recently said that artificial general intelligence (AGI) – essentially, an AI that can accomplish any intellectual task that a human being or an animal can perform – will be “the most powerful technology yet invented”, and could usher in a world that gets “more abundant and much better every year.” 

But what do humans think? 

YouGov polling shows that over two in five Britons (43%) think the onset of human-level AI would make society worse, with just a quarter (26%) saying it would make society better. 

These attitudes vary according to age: people over 55, for example, are more likely to think AGI will have a negative impact on society (48% vs. 24%) compared to people in the 18-34 age bracket (43% vs. 26%). 

A recurring concern about generative AI tools such as ChatGPT is that they will take away people’s jobs – so we decided to ask Britons how they felt the onset of AGI would affect employees and companies alike. Our data shows that, while half say the development of an AGI would be positive for businesses (50%) most Britons believe it would be bad news for workers (57%) 

Britons don’t want AI that’s smarter than the average human

Our data also shows that Britons are most likely to be happy with an AI that’s less intelligent than the average person: 47% are comfortable with this idea, while 38% are uncomfortable. Tools like ChatGPT or Midjourney, which can hold conversations with users or create realistic images based on prompts, would fall into this category, as they’re designed to accomplish a narrow range of tasks. 

But when it comes to AI empowered with human-level intelligence – e.g. the hypothetical AGI – people are more wary. Just 37% say they are comfortable with it, while 50% say the opposite. And a hypothetical AI superintelligence would likely create even more unease: just 26% say they are comfortable with the idea of an AI that’s more intelligent than the average human, while 60% say they are not. 

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YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 1-4 December 2023, with a nationally/ representative sample of 2082 adults (aged 18+ years) in Great Britain, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education and social grade to be representative of all adults in Great Britain (18 years or older), and reflect the latest ONS population estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.