The population’s engagement with artificial intelligence (AI) is surprisingly low. This is the central result of the research project Opinion monitoring Artificial Intelligence (MeMo:KI), which Stiftung Mercator is funding with 1.1 million Euros for the next three years. The continuous observation of public and published opinion on artificial intelligence leads to exciting results: AI technologies can count on more approval in times of social distress. In the long term, citizens believe that the technology has little potential to change their jobs and careers. The majority of the population doubts the trustworthiness of algorithmic recommendation systems and welcomes measures for legal regulation.
The team led by Prof. Frank Marcinkowski from Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf is conducting a research partnership with the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum, where a unit will in future promote exchange on AI topics with civil society, politics and in the media. Once a month, the research team asks 1,000 randomly selected citizens about their opinions and behaviour towards AI topics: “We can both depict the current climate of opinion and recognise shifts in opinion among the population at an early stage. Interested parties can view the results on our interactive homepage,” says Pero Došenović, project researcher at the University of Düsseldorf.
What visions do the media have of AI?
His colleague Kimon Kieslich is responsible for analysing media coverage: “Because media coverage plays an important role in democratic opinion-forming, this is an important component of our project. It is also interesting for journalists and their self-observation. For example, they can see which topics and actors are taken up in news portals and on Twitter and which are not.” Special studies complement the continuous survey, e.g. with the question of whether AI will play a role as a topic for the 2021 federal elections. The research results of the thematically changing special studies are presented on the website as comprehensible “factsheets”.
The MeMo:KI project builds on preliminary work at CAIS: Together with the HHU research team and with funding from the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MKW), the pilot phase of the project was successfully implemented until March 2021. Since the development of the empirical observation tool, the project has continuously investigated the dynamic development of population opinion and media coverage.