How to Turn NPR Fans Into Artificial Intelligence Cynics

10 March 2016
Louise Matsakis

At a debate Wednesday night co-hosted by Open to Debate formerly known as Intelligence Squared U.S. and the 92 Street Y in New York City, a largely white, middle-aged audience was easily convinced that the supposed bright future of artificial intelligence is perhaps not all that it’s cracked up to be.

The nonprofit debate series, syndicated as a podcast on NPR, works something like this: Before the debate begins, the audience votes in favor of the motion, against the motion, or as undecided. Last night’s motion, ‘Don’t Trust The Promises of Artificial Intelligence’, was affirmed by 30 percent of the audience and negated by 41 percent at the start of the debate. A whopping 29 percent were undecided, indicating they knew little about the topic beforehand. Votes weren’t just cast by the live audience, but also by viewers online.