Nearly a third of the British public is worried by the speed at which technology is developing, and fear the advance can not be controlled.
This is according to a survey launched today by Bull Information Systems, which reveals that 48 per cent of British adults do not trust the government to control technological developments, with 53 per cent expressing fears that society is in danger of becoming an automated robotic state.
The findings, together with the study 'Morals for Robots and Cyborgs: Ethics and Society in the age of autonomous intelligent machines', has led Bull to call for a public and ethical policy debate into the development of artificial intelligence.
The company believes a debate is essential to raise important issues such as privacy, accountability and safety issues, as well as to monitor the economic impact of autonomous intelligent machines.
"It is vital for the computer industry to open a dialogue with the public, government, industry and academia if we wish to avoid the controversy that has dogged sectors like GM foods, cloning and human fertilisation," said Stephen Meyler, marketing director at Bull Information Systems.
With more than two thirds of the respondents believing that computers have taken on too many human jobs, with the key areas most suitable for computers to perform in named as bomb disposal (77 per cent) or administration (72 per cent), more awareness is needed, Meyler argued.
Perri 6, senior research fellow at the University of Strathclyde's department of government and author of the Bull study, said: "It is important that the benefits of artificial intelligence are made clear. New technologies can expose human beings to less risks, and correct diagnoses can be made in areas like medicine or finance.
"There is a popular misconception that artificially intelligent machines are going to seize power at some point in the future. The reality is that there are a range of more important, urgent and practical issues facing technology designers, businesses, citizens and government right now," he said.
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