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Many People Are Thankful For Artificial Intelligence This Thanksgiving, Says Poll

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Many Americans appear to be starting to embrace the idea of artificial intelligence (AI), as well its growing prevalence in the world, according to a new survey set to be published Thursday.

In fact, many people in the U.S. are grateful for AI this Thanksgiving, with only 11 percent of respondents saying it should not be used during the holiday. The technological capability could, for example, automatically pick relatively benign topics of conversation for Thanksgiving dinner in order to avoid veering off into tense family discussions, according to participants of the survey.

Broadly, artificial intelligence is the technologically advanced concept that machines can display a level of knowledge highly similar to humans through learning and understanding of the environment. An artificially intelligent machine, for example, can perform almost-cognitive functions like problem solving, which often requires the adaptation of certain circumstances in realtime.

When asked why the larger population’s acceptance and even excitement of AI seems to be expanding, Carl Landers, senior vice president of Conversica — the tech company who conducted the poll of 1,009 diverse American adults — said it’s because “we are reaching a turning point.”

“Consider that our research also discovered that almost a third of Americans are already using AI, whether it’s Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Salesforce’s Einstein,” Landers told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “Now that people have a taste of what AI can do, they want to see how they can speed up routine tasks to make their lives easier and more productive—whether at work or at home.”

The company finds that 16 percent use AI in smartphone applications like Siri and Google, while 10 percent employ it with home applications like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

In the poll, Conversica also asked how an AI-powered assistant like Alexa or Google Home could best help them during the holidays. The number one answer was “gift recommendations,” with “product details” coming second. The response “connecting people” with another human was a distant third.

Conversica is a company that specializes in AI assistance, specifically in offering a virtual assistant for businesses to use for customer service, sales, and marketing purposes, among other functions. It sees the advantages of its proprietary AI firsthand and on a daily basis.

“Our research shows that in order to be truly successful, a salesperson needs to follow up 8-11 times,” Landers explained. “While most humans would only be able to follow-up a handful of times at most, an AI assistant can follow up with a lead many times, never getting sick and always sounding happy and polite. Our clients who use our AI platform say they are more successful and are even able to hire more people as a result.”

Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the advent of ever-growing AI.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who heads a nonprofit research firm called OpenAI, said earlier in July that government bureaucrats must craft regulations for AI before robots begin killing people in the streets. (RELATED: Bill Gates Reassures America That Artificial Intelligence Is Nothing To ‘Panic’ About)

But it isn’t just Musk. He and 115 other tech leaders collectively announced in August that they sent a letter to the United Nations asking it to ban “killer robots,” formally known as lethal autonomous weapons. Famous physicist Stephen Hawking has also warned that, if used wrong, artificial intelligence could end the human race.

“I think you can build things and the world gets better. With AI especially, I am really optimistic,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in July in an apparent, indirect response to the aforementioned remarks made by Musk. “I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible … In the next five to 10 years, AI is going to deliver so many improvements in the quality of our lives.”

Some have gone even further than Zuckerberg’s personal advocation and his company’s commitment to develop and utilize AI-empowered features. (RELATED: BuzzFeed Wants You To Fear Facebook’s Algorithms)

Anthony Levandowski, a former Google and Uber executive who is known as one of most prominent advancers of autonomous vehicle technology, is starting his own church, in which AI is essentially the deity. Levandowski is taking the initiative so seriously, that, along with other organizers, he filed papers with the IRS, listing himself as the official leader of the religion.

In respect to Conversica’s poll, somewhat surprisingly, the older a respondent was, the more convinced they seemed to be of AI’s power and benefits.

For instance, 51.2 percent of people ages 65 and older thought businesses should be grateful for AI, while in contrast, 44.5 percent of 18-24 year olds said the same. There is an uptick when comparing to older generations, but the appreciation plateaued at 50 percent for age groups 35-44, 45-54, and 55-64 years old, respectively.

One could conceivably think that the younger generations would be more appreciative or grateful of AI since the more youthful usually comprehend the many wonders of nascent technology due to their higher proportion of exposure. But, perhaps since the older generation stereotypically know less about technology, they may be more surprised and thus more impressed by AI.

Regardless of what the response variance in the age distinctions convey, some don’t see such polls as a perfect way of examining public perception of AI.

“Take autonomous vehicles, which are basically just AI on wheels: some surveys suggest a majority of respondents are eager for a future of autonomous vehicles, but there are plenty of other surveys that conclude the opposite,” Ryan Hagemann, director of technology policy at the think tank the Niskanen Center, told TheDCNF. “So in general, I take survey results of public opinion on emerging technologies with a pretty big grain of salt.”

Public perception of AI is highly dependent on the framing of the question proposed, much like for other complex policy debates, Hagemann also says.

He adds that, regardless of how much consideration AI polls should receive at the moment, there are tangible and considerable benefits of the technology’s wide-spread development, implementation and adoption.

“Probably more than any other technology, AI is contributing the lion’s share of those productivity returns to technology firms,” Hagemann concluded. “If I was the CEO of a tech firm, I’d be giving thanks this holiday season to the blossoming springtime of AI advancements we’re currently living through.”

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