Attack of the drones: six in ten perceive threat from AI-based defense systems

Yet, only 43% of respondents are confident in their government’s ability to respond to such a threat.

The author(s)
  • Darrell Bricker Global Head of Public Affairs - Ipsos
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Everyone’s talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and so are we.

Ipsos added several questions related to AI to this year’s polling for the Halifax Security Forum and found that 60%, on average across 30 countries, are concerned about an AI-based defense system becoming a threat to humanity by breaking free of human control. How real the threat is perceived to be depends on where one lives, with 45% of people in Sweden versus 76% in Indonesia agreeing the threat is real, while 64% of Americans think the threat is real vs. 59% of Canadians.

Ipsos | Halifax International Security Forum 2023Meanwhile, only 43% of all respondents polled via Ipsos’ Global Advisor online platform between Sept. 22 – Oct. 6, 2023, are somewhat/very confident that the appropriate levels of security/protection could be provided by their government, or that its agencies could respond effectively, if an AI-based defense system were to break free of human control. Confidence to respond to such a threat runs from a low of 31% in France, 44% in Canada, 46% in the U.S. all the way to a high of 70% in India[1].

Ipsos | Halifax International Security Forum 2023

AI leads to worry about some scary scenarios

The quickly-evolving technology is obviously making some of us feel pretty uneasy these days.

Three-quarters (75%) are somewhat/very worried about AI-powered deepfakes (e.g., fake images) spreading disinformation and manipulating public opinion. The majority in all countries Ipsos did polling in this year are concerned about AI-powered disinformation but there’s quite a range, with only 55% Indians worried about this versus 89% of Indonesians. Similar proportions of Canadians (78%) and Americans (74%) are concerned about AI-powered deepfakes spreading disinformation.

Meanwhile, most (74% on average globally) are worried about AI-powered hacking tools conducting cybersecurity attacks and disrupting or damaging critical infrastructure (e.g., transportation, power or water distribution, healthcare facilities, etc.). Again, there’s a spread with only 55% of people in India worried about this versus 83% of people in Indonesia. Close to the same proportions of people in Canada (78%) and the U.S. (76%) are concerned about AI-powered hacking tools.

And almost three in four (73% globally) are worried about AI-enabled surveillance that violates privacy rights and can be misused. A similar pattern emerges with respondents in India the least concerned about this at 56% and those in Indonesia the most concerned at 84%. Meanwhile, 75% of respondents in Canada and 74% in the U.S. are concerned about AI-powered hacking tools.

Overall, 69% are concerned about AI-enabled autonomous weapons, such as drones and robots, with 54% of people in India worried and 81% in Indonesia. Canadians (73%) are also slightly more concerned about this risk than Americans (70%).

Seeing AI as a negative force

Like any tool, AI can be used for good or evil and many are concerned how humans will use this tech.

Just over two in five (41% on average globally) think AI will become a threat to world peace, while Canadians (53%) and Americans (52%) are even more likely to think so. On the flipside, only 28% globally think the tech will help nations get along better vs. just 15% of Canadians and 18% of Americans.

Not everyone has such a dire view, with almost one in three (31% on average globally) saying AI will have no effect on relationships among nations with American (30%) and Canadian (32%) sentiment in line with the global average.

The future is now

The speed at which AI, and tech in general, has recently progressed looks to have unnerved people around the world.

Almost three in five (+two pts to 59%) say the revolution in digital technology will undermine and destroy the democratic freedoms that exist in the world today. That sentiment rose significantly in seven countries year-over-year, including: Japan (+four pts to 39%), Spain (+four pts to 60%), Thailand (+four pts to 62%), Canada (+five pts to 61%), Sweden (+seven pts to 50%), the U.S. (+seven pts to 61%), Brazil (+eight pts to 56%) and India (+nine pts to 81%).


Table of content

  1. Canada, Germany most likely to be viewed as positive leaders on world stage
  2. Attack of the drones: six in ten perceive threat from ai-based defense systems
  3. HISF-Ipsos Threat Index finds natural disasters seen as fastest-growing threat
  4. Global citizens achieve near consensus: The world is becoming more dangerous
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About this study

These are the results of a 30-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform and, in India, on its IndiaBus platform, between Friday, September 22 and Friday, October 6, 2023. For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 23,220 adults aged 18 years and older in India, 18-74 in Canada, Republic of Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Indonesia and Singapore, and 16-74 in all other countries.

[1] Thanks to a change in methodology, the survey now captures the sentiment of a much broader swath of the Indian population. India’s sample now represents a large subset of its urban population — social economic classes A, B and C in metros and tier 1-3 town classes across all four zones.

The author(s)
  • Darrell Bricker Global Head of Public Affairs - Ipsos

Society