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America Needs AI Literacy Now

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An artist's representation of artificial intelligence.

Some concepts are well understood. For example, 78% of participants know that smart speakers, like Alexa, use AI technology, and 73% know that AI learns by consuming large amounts of data.

Credit: Adobe Stock

Can artificial intelligence (AI) replace a doctor in the operating room? Are some AI algorithms inherently biased, or are they merely trained on biased data? If you're not sure about the answers to these questions, you are not alone. We recently conducted a national survey with Echelon Insights of 1,547 US adults, including a twenty-question 'True/False/Don't Know' quiz, and found that most Americans are remarkably ill-informed about AI. Only 16% of participants "passed" the test (scoring above 60%) indicating that the majority of Americans are AI illiterate.

Perhaps AI illiteracy shouldn't surprise us. AI is not part of our schools' curricula, and the main source of information about it today, according to our survey, is YouTube and social media. Yet AI is transforming the world around us at an alarming pace; AI literacy (a basic understanding of what it can do and what it cannot do) is critical for informing everyday decisions, adopting appropriate economic policies, and maintaining our national security. We are not advocating that everyone become adept at creating AI software, but rather that people should clearly understand AI's capabilities, limitations, and trajectory and how it affects their daily lives.

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