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Machines to perform more tasks than humans?

Survey by nextMedia.Hamburg on relationship between humans and machines reveals ambivalent user attitudes

Sci-fi movies often centre on robots in society and some of the technology shown is already part of digital life. Speech assistants on smart phones, networked household goods and robots for chat services are doing tasks formerly done by humans. How high is the acceptance among users?

A representative survey conducted by Statista on behalf of nextMedia.Hamburg found that 35 per cent of interviewees expect machines to do more tasks than humans by 2030. And 10 per cent expect this to occur by 2020 while 22 to 24 per cent expect this by 2040 or later. Only 8 per cent believed that machines would never do more tasks than humans. However, many interviewees were hesitant to express support for the development.

Interviewees rate use of machines differently

Some 29 per cent of interviewees did not support machines doing more tasks done by humans hitherto. However, over every second interviewee (58 per cent) was unable to assess the development and believe that it holds both risks and opportunities. Around 11 per cent clearly supported the development and many of the supporters were young people. Some 16 per cent of 18-29 year olds support execution of tasks by machines compared to only 6 per cent of the 50-60 year age group.

But which technological developments will impact users’ lives in the coming years? Around 36 per cent mentioned wearables or intelligent clothing and accessories, followed by Internet of Things (34 per cent) and self-driving cars (33 per cent). Only every fourth interviewee or 25 per cent expects impacts from automated communication, for instance, by ordering via a chat robot. And only every tenth person (10 per cent) expects impacts from cyborgization. Only 23 per cent believe that none of the options will have an impact.

Favourites – self-driving cars, Internet of Things and wearables

Asked about their preferences, 26 per cent of interviewees mentioned self-driving cars followed by Internet of Things (21 per cent) and wearables (20 per cent), automated communication (11 per cent) and cyborgization (7 per cent). However, none of the developments were desirable, according to a noticeable 42 per cent. This percentage was made up of 54 per cent of interviewees in the 50-60 year age group and 28 per cent of 18-29 year olds.

May-Lena Bork, a digital expert at nextMedia.StartHub, said: “At the moment, several technological developments are occurring simultaneously and the actual effects remain to be seen fully. Also the new technologies are meeting with more and scepticism. That is not unusual. The digital economy would be well advised to segment the technologies and explain how they function to win over all the users.”

Meanwhile, digital assistance systems such as voice control on smart phones are seen almost as a common tool. Some 35 per cent of interviewees found this development positive and 9 per cent extremely positive. Around 11 per cent said the digital assistant systems were negative and 5 per cent saw them as simply negative. Around 35 per cent were undecided.

Creative content should be left to humans

Asked whether people should no longer be responsible for creating the content of books or TV series, around 43 per cent did not support this and 29 per cent not at all. Only 2 per cent saw this development positively and 6 per cent were generally positive. Some 16 per cent of interviewees replied “neither, nor”. Statista carried out the online survey on behalf of nextMedia.Hamburg from August 30 to September 5, 2016 and interviewed 1,000 internet users between 18 and 60 years in Germany.

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