Chapter 15: AI folk tales: how nontechnical publics make sense of artificial intelligence
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Artificial intelligence (AI) infuses all manner of public life, including consumer behavior, mental health, transportation, and high-stakes decision-making systems such as criminal justice and child welfare. It is challenging for individuals to make informed decisions about AI if they do not fully understand the socio-technical construction of AI or its implications. This study uses open-ended qualitative responses to better understand how nontechnical publics understand AI. A total of 932 individuals responded to the prompt: In a sentence or two, describe your understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From your perspective, what is it and how is it used?”. The analysis of these responses suggests that individuals without engineering or computer science backgrounds are creating folk theories to understand artificial intelligence. The analysis points to a need for increased critical AI and data literacy education infused early into the general education curricula.

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