Better to be artificially intelligent than naturally stupid

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When it comes to “life and limb”, Germans remain skeptical as regards artificial intelligence. But a recent study shows that many people think it is capable of making fairer decisions than their fellow humans.

Applications using artificial intelligence (AI) are developing at a breathtaking pace. However, opinions among the population remain constant, at least in some areas. In the electronica Trend Index survey in October 2016, about two thirds of Germans believed AI in electronic devices was a good idea. But they should not act too autonomously. The majority would prefer not to have completely self-driving cars.

Ambivalent survey about AI

One year later AI in self-driving cars or virtual assistants still frightens many people in Germany. 41 percent of Germans even believed that “intelligent” technology was a threat for mankind. This was the result of the survey “Sex, Lies and A.I.” by digital communications agency Syzygy AG.

At around the same time, 77 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) that AI helps organize everyday tasks better. However, 51 percent admitted that, to a certain extent, they were afraid of the developments. 49 percent thought that artificial intelligence could be used to combat cybercrime. 45 percent believed that it could be effective in reducing the effects of climate change. And 43 percent hoped that AI could be used to discover better drugs. On the other hand, only a third of the respondents showed any enthusiasm regarding self-driving vehicles.

Artificial intelligence preferred

According to a recent representative survey by Bitkom of 1,006 German citizens aged over 14, in certain situations, the majority of the alleged “technophobic” Germans would rather trust a decision made by AI than by a human. For example, 15 percent said that they would prefer an AI decision regarding a loan application than that of a human. 10 percent even said that they would prefer an AI judge. And 9 percent would rather ask an AI application for a wage rise than their boss. The same number of people think an “artificial” mediator would be practical in cases of disputes with their partner. On the whole, 6 in 10 Germans (58 percent) would prefer an AI decision rather than a human one, at least in certain situations. Only 4 in 10 (40 percent) completely reject this idea.

According to the survey, there was virtually no difference between the sexes as regards acceptance of AI decisions, however, older people are more skeptical. Among Germans aged 65 and above, a majority of 56 percent said that they would generally not accept an AI decision rather than a decision by a human being.


In all the studies, Germans were generally in favor of artificial intelligence. The fact that they believed that AI could make fairer decisions is surely due to its system-related “unfeelingness”. But it may also be due to the general loss of trust in institutions, jurisdiction, and superiors. There is also a degree of skepticism that governments and companies may not use AI just for the wellbeing of the population. And when it comes to “life and limb”, for example as regards autonomous driving or the health system, many people don’t like the idea of being completely in the hands of artificial intelligence.

AI (Image: pixabay/Pete Linforth).

A majority of Germans would allow AI to make decisions for them in certain situations. (Image: pixabay/Pete Linforth).