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New Zealanders' attitudes towards robots and AI

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Dave Heatley

Date published

9 March 2020

The Productivity Commission asked 1 001 New Zealanders about their attitudes to emerging digital technologies in February 2020. The questions asked were a subset of those asked by the European Commission across 28 EU countries in March 2017. Here’s a summary of the key findings:

  • Seventy-one percent of New Zealanders responded that the current impact of the most recent digital tech was positive on their own quality of life. Yet New Zealanders are, overall, much more negative than people in EU countries about the effects of emerging tech on the economy and on society.
  • New Zealanders are very positive, relative to people in EU countries, about the quality of their own digital skills – applied to their daily life, their use of digital services, and their current and futures jobs.
  • New Zealanders’ attitudes to robots and AI are somewhat mixed. They are relatively negative about socially positive uses of robots (eg, to perform dangerous tasks), yet relatively unconcerned that robots would “steal peoples’ jobs”.
  • New Zealander’s responses to most questions did not vary much by age. However, older New Zealanders are less confident than younger ones that their digital skills are sufficient for a hypothetical future job.
  • New Zealanders with incomes less than $50K showed less favourable attitudes to digital tech than those earning more than $50K. This effect was particularly pronounced in responses to the statement “robots steal people’s jobs”. There was little difference between those earning $50–100K and those earning above $100K.
  • Just 40% of New Zealanders believe that New Zealand is keeping up with the best in the world when it comes to the digital transformation of industry. 

Read the report: New Zealanders' attitudes towards robots and AI.

This research was carried out for our Technological change and future of work inquiry.


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