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More Canadians using AI tools, despite ‘deep-rooted’ fears about the tech: poll


Despite worries artificial intelligence lacks empathy and could be coming to steal their jobs, a growing number of Canadians are turning to AI tools, a new poll suggests.

Thirty per cent of Canadians now use artificial intelligence tools, the Leger poll suggested, up from 25 per cent a year ago, though two-thirds of respondents said the prospect of having them in their lives is scary.

The poll of 1,614 Canadians shows a distinct divide between how younger and older people view AI — 58 per cent of those 18 to 34 reported using AI tools, compared to just 13 per cent of those 55 and older.

Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of Leger, said the number of people who have been exposed to or interacted with AI is probably higher than reported, because some individuals may not be aware they’re using it. A website might have a chatbot introduce themselves as Dave, for example — and the user may not realize Dave isn’t a real person.

Respondents aged 18 to 34 were more familiar with the concept of chatbots, or automated chat assistants on websites, with 64 per cent reporting familiarity compared to 38 per cent for those older than 55. The poll does not have a margin of error because online polls aren’t considered truly random samples.

Those who have used AI services or tools generally had a good experience with them, with 71 per cent rating them as good or excellent.

But Canadians, in general, appear to have mixed feelings, with 31 per cent of respondents taking the position they’re good for society and 32 per cent that they’re bad for society. Where respondents stood on the issue varied with age; 42 per cent of younger respondents thought AI tools were good for society, compared to only 23 per cent of older Canadians.

Some of the common worries are privacy and concerns that society is going to become too dependent on AI, which 81 per cent of those polled agreed with. Three-quarters said AI tools lack the emotion and empathy required to make good decisions and threaten human jobs.

Bourque said those results indicate that “people have fairly deep-rooted fears about the use of AI in our society.”

Most, or 58 per cent, trust AI to adjust their thermostat, play music or vacuum their house, while slightly fewer, 53 per cent, trust using facial recognition or biometrics to access personal information.

Canadians are more cautious about using AI tools to create content for important projects at school or work, with only 37 trusting them in that context. The age gap was evident in that question, too, with 44 per cent of those 18 to 34 having confidence in the tech for those projects, compared to 29 per cent of those 55-plus.

Similarly, nearly half of younger respondents were OK with tech platforms using AI to decide what content to show on social media, compared to 23 per cent of older Canadians.

The trust drops when it comes to personal safety. Fewer than one-quarter had faith in AI to transport them in a vehicle, though the age gap was evident again, with 28 per cent of the youngest demographic trusting AI driving compared to only 16 per cent of the oldest.

A similar divide was evident when it comes to relying on AI to find a life partner online, something a quarter of respondents 18 to 34 trusted the tech to do, compared to only 10 per cent of those older than 55.