Digital life is augmenting human capacities and disrupting eons-old human activities. Code-driven systems have spread to more than half of the world’s inhabitants in ambient information and connectivity, offering previously unimagined opportunities and unprecedented threats. As emerging algorithm-driven artificial intelligence (AI) continues to spread, will people be better off than they are today?
Some 979 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists answered this question in a canvassing of experts conducted in the summer of 2018.
The experts predicted networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities. They spoke of the wide-ranging possibilities; that computers might match or even exceed human intelligence and capabilities on tasks such as complex decision-making, reasoning and learning, sophisticated analytics and pattern recognition, visual acuity, speech recognition and language translation. They said “smart” systems in communities, in vehicles, in buildings and utilities, on farms and in business processes will save time, money and lives and offer opportunities for individuals to enjoy a more-customized future.
Many focused their optimistic remarks on health care and the many possible applications of AI in diagnosing and treating patients or helping senior citizens live fuller and healthier lives. They were also enthusiastic about AI’s role in contributing to broad public-health programs built around massive amounts of data that may be captured in the coming years about everything from personal genomes to nutrition. Additionally, a number of these experts predicted that AI would abet long-anticipated changes in formal and informal education systems.
Yet, most experts, regardless of whether they are optimistic or not, expressed concerns about the long-term impact of these new tools on the essential elements of being human. All respondents in this non-scientific canvassing were asked to elaborate on why they felt AI would leave people better off or not. Many shared deep worries, and many also suggested pathways toward solutions. The main themes they sounded about threats and remedies are outlined in the accompanying table.
bout two-thirds of American adults (68%) say they at least occasionally get news on social media, about the same share as at this time in 2017, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Many of these consumers, however, are skeptical of the information they see there: A majority (57%) say they expect the news they see on social media to be largely inaccurate. Still, most social media news consumers say getting news this way has made little difference in their understanding of current events, and more say it has helped than confused them (36% compared with 15%).
Republicans are more negative about the news they see on social media than Democrats. Among Republican social media news consumers, 72% say they expect the news they see there to be inaccurate, compared with 46% of Democrats and 52% of independents. And while 42% of those Democrats who get news on social media say it has helped their understanding of current events, fewer Republicans (24%) say the same.1 Even among those Americans who say they prefer to get news on social media over other platforms (such as print, TV or radio), a substantial portion (42%) express this skepticism.
Asked what they like about the news experience on social media, more Americans mention ease of use than content. “Convenience” is by far the most commonly mentioned benefit, (21%), while 8% say they most enjoy the interactions with other people. Fewer social media news consumers say they most like the diversity of the sources available (3%), or the ability to tailor the content they see (2%).
This study is based on a survey conducted July 30-Aug. 12, 2018, among 4,581 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.
Growth in social media news consumption slows down
About two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) get news on social media sites, about the same as the portion that did so in 2017 (67%). One-in-five get news there often.
Facebook is still far and away the site Americans most commonly use for news, with little change since 2017. About four-in-ten Americans (43%) get news on Facebook. The next most commonly used site for news is YouTube, with 21% getting news there, followed by Twitter at 12%. Smaller portions of Americans (8% or fewer) get news from other social networks like Instagram, LinkedIn or Snapchat.
The prominence of each social media site in the news ecosystem depends on two factors: its overall popularity and the extent to which people see news on the site.
Reddit, Twitter and Facebook stand out as the sites where the highest portion of users are exposed to news – 67% of Facebook’s users get news there, as do 71% of Twitter’s users and 73% of Reddit users. However, because Facebook’s overall user base is much larger than those of Twitter or Reddit, far more Americans overall get news on Facebook than on the other two sites.
The other sites studied – including YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and WhatsApp – have less of a news focus among their user base. Fewer than half of each site’s users get news on each platform. Still both YouTube and LinkedIn saw these portions rise over the past year.
Nearly four-in-ten YouTube users (38%) say they get news on YouTube, slightly higher than the 32% of users who did so last year. And 30% of LinkedIn users get news there, up from 23% in 2017.
The percentage of U.S. adults who get news on two or more social media sites is 28%, little changed from 2017 (26%).
Demographics of social media news consumers
Social media sites’ news consumers can look vastly different in terms of their demographic makeup. For example, the majority of news consumers on Instagram are nonwhite. Three-quarters of Snapchat’s news consumers are ages 18 to 29, more than any other site. And LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit’s news consumers are more likely to have bachelor’s degrees – 61% of LinkedIn’s news consumers do, as do 46% of Reddit’s news consumers and 41% of Twitter’s news consumers.