Which tasks will AI do better than human professionals in the next decade, according to Americans?

Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
June 27, 2023, 12:48 AM GMT+0

Recent advances in artificial intelligence have prompted questions about the technology's future capabilities and whether it will eventually surpass those of humans. In a recent survey, American adults shared their views on how they believe AI's abilities will compare to human professionals performing 30 tasks in a decade's time. The results suggest that while AI is seen as having the potential to excel at a variety of technical and analytical tasks, humans are still likely to be trusted more for certain tasks requiring emotional intelligence, ethical judgment, and creative intuition.

Language translation comes out on top in our ranking of tasks that Americans expect AI will outperform professionals in the next decade: 55% anticipate that AI's translation abilities will be superior to humans. This is followed by predicting weather patterns and providing tech support, at which 46% and 43% of Americans, respectively, anticipate that AI will outperform professionals in the next decade. Other tasks for which a sizable share of people expect AI to outperform trained professionals are creating software (43%) and designing buildings (41%).

When it comes to more creative and empathetic tasks, such as writing novels, cooking, or caregiving, Americans' expectations regarding AI's future capabilities are far more muted. For instance, only 12% believe AI will be better than professionals at providing child care or elder care in a decade, and just 16% the same about providing therapy and making complex ethical decisions.

The poll also asked Americans which of three technologies — AI, the smartphone, and the internet — they think has been and will be most revolutionary in terms of fundamentally changing how people live, work, and interact with the world. While a majority say that the internet (57%) has been the most revolutionary thus far, more expect AI (43%) than the internet (30%) will be the most revolutionary in the next 100 years.

When asked how these three technologies have affected society, more say the internet (70%) and smartphone (64%) have very or somewhat positive effects than say the same about AI (29%).

Other findings from our recent poll on AI

  • More Americans say AI is making their life much or somewhat easier (25%) than say it is making their life much or somewhat harder (13%). One in three (34%) say it is making their life neither easier nor harder.
  • Americans are far more likely to believe that advances in AI will lead to a decrease (54%) in the number of jobs available in the U.S. rather than an increase (12%); 14% think there will be no effect.
  • Americans who work full-time or part-time are less pessimistic when it comes to their perceptions of AI's effect on jobs in their own industry: 33% say it will decrease the number of jobs, 16% say it will increase it, and 34% say it will have no effect.
  • When asked how K-12 schools should respond to advances in AI, 45% of Americans say they should focus on "teaching students how to appropriately use AI," while 28% say they should focus on "preventing students from using AI."
  • Many Americans view AI-related skills as necessary for students' future careers: 23% say learning to use AI is very necessary and 36% say it is somewhat necessary.
  • Americans are more likely to see negatives than positives when it comes to the effects of AI technology that allows for the creation of hyper‑realistic images: 39% say advances in this technology will be bad for society and 25% say they will be good.
  • Two in five Americans (42%) say they've seen a realistic image of a person generated by AI, and 20% say they have used a website to produce an AI-generated photo.
  • About half of Americans (54%) strongly or somewhat agree and 18% strongly or somewhat disagree with a recent statement by the Center for AI Safety, which reads: "Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war."
  • A similar share — 56% — supports a six-month pause on some kinds of AI development; just 20% oppose a pause.

See the results for this YouGov poll

    Methodology: The poll was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adult citizens on two separate surveys from June 1 - 5, 2023 and June 2 - 5, 2023, with each survey taken by 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Each respondent was asked about a randomly selected sample of 15 of the 30 tasks. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.


    Image: Adobe Stock (pathdoc)

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