Ordinary Americans want the AI race to slow down

Most AI developers have argued that it’d be foolish to slow down the advancement of artificial intelligence tools. But a new poll shows that the general public doesn’t agree.

The majority of US voters don’t trust tech executives to self-regulate their use of AI. 83% of voters believe AI could accidentally cause a catastrophic event, and 72% want to slow down AI development and usage.

All this is revealed in a new survey by the Artificial Intelligence Policy Institute (AIPI), a new think tank. The respondents also support federal regulation of AI.

Compared to 72% of voters who want the development of AI to slow down, just 8% prefer speeding development up. 62% of voters are primarily concerned about AI while just 21% are primarily excited about it, the survey shows.

70% agree that mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority, alongside other risks like pandemics and nuclear war.

82% of voters don’t trust tech executives to regulate AI, while voters support a federal agency regulating AI by a more than 3:1 margin, including 2:1 among Republicans. Finally,

76% of voters believe artificial intelligence could eventually pose a threat to the existence of the human race, including 75% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans.

“The data is clear — Americans are wary about the next stages of AI and want policymakers to step in to develop it responsibly,” said Daniel Colson, Executive Director of the AIPI.

“At a time when nearly every issue is polarized, there’s a broad consensus among Americans that policymakers need to decide what path AI development should take.”

Jack Clark, the CEO of AI safety and research company Anthropic, called the results of the AIPI poll interesting in his popular newsletter because “they appear to show a divergence between elite opinion and popular opinion.”

“Most private company leaders are racing with one another to aggressively develop and deploy AI systems and lock in various economic and ecosystem advantages. Yet this survey shows that normal people are much more cautious in their outlook about the technology and more likely to adopt or prefer a precautionary principle when developing the tech,” said Clark.

The poll, conducted by data analytics firm YouGov, surveyed 1,001 Americans from across the age, gender, and political spectrum: 42 percent of respondents affiliated themselves with Donald Trump and 47 percent with Joe Biden.

This was the first survey undertaken by the AIPI, which is a new AI-focused think tank. It says it will conduct frequent surveys to demonstrate where Americans stand on AI issues and provide analysis on existing proposals coming out of Washington.