Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) appeal to the imagination of the general public. Research in eleven countries into people’s attitudes towards these technologies has shown that they feel uncomfortable with robots that look like humans and exhibit human behavior. A study of the SIENNA project shows that people assume that their lives and society will change as artificial intelligence and robotics are increasingly applied. They also expect the degree of inequality in society to increase as a result.

We are getting used to interacting with intelligent machines. We bring robot vacuum cleaners into our living rooms and ask Siri, Alexa, or Google to help us with the navigation when we drive our cars. Robotic dogs, such as the Sony Aibo, are used in the care of dementia patients. These developments are already visible. Society relies more and more on these technologies. Almost every day we use smart devices and intelligent software.

80% of those questioned think that AI and rapid developments in robots will significantly change their country over the next 20 years. Less than half (46%) were positive about the impact these devices can have on their country, a third (30%) were even negative. The Dutch and South Koreans are the most positive (61% and 55%), the French the least positive (31%). More than half of those questioned (55%) think that these technologies give them less control over their own lives, only 13% think they have more control.

With respect to robotics, more than half of those questioned (52%) said that they did not want robots to look and behave like humans in their workplace or in the public space. Less than a third (29%) have no problem with it. The South Koreans accept this the most (52%), the French the least (17%). In none of the countries did more than a third of the participants find the idea of a robot as a romantic partner acceptable.

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