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Technology

May 28, 2024

What Does Using AI For Good Look Like?

Hero image for article about AI being used for good

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), and easier still to see where the technology could go wrong. But where can AI go right?

Barna, in partnership with Gloo, is conducting ongoing research to gauge sentiments and explore opportunities surrounding AI, helping the Church make well-informed decisions about the advancing technology.

Here’s what some of our most recent data reveals: Even with mounting caution around AI, many U.S. adults see its capacity to do good in the world.

While there are mixed feelings about what artificial intelligence is and the changes it might bring, we see agreement that the technology can be used for good—especially, and notably, among U.S. pastors.

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The Complicated Feelings Around AI
There’s little consensus among U.S. adults around the characteristics of AI. While one in three adults (32%) consider AI exciting, the same amount (33%) believe it’s scary, and two in five (41%) label AI as concerning.

U.S. Christians have similar feelings to the general population: 30 percent believe AI is exciting, while 34 percent see AI as scary. Pastors, on the other hand, have a far more cautious view of AI—nearly three in five (72%) label AI as concerning, and just 9 percent of pastors see AI as encouraging.

But the feelings of U.S. adults aren’t so black-and-white. Among adults who say AI is encouraging, 25 percent also consider AI to be concerning. Similarly, among those who label AI as scary, 25 percent also believe AI is exciting.

The data paints a picture of a society grappling with the implications of AI, where a range of emotions and perspectives coexist. As AI continues to advance and become more integrated into various aspects of life, addressing these diverse viewpoints and fostering a balanced understanding of the technology will be crucial.

Good Ways To Use AI
Even with some wariness of AI, optimism remains—and U.S. adults have some idea of (or at least hope for) the ways AI can be used for good. Nearly two in five U.S. adults (37%) feel AI could “empower individuals with disabilities in being able to perform tasks,” a belief that’s also consistent across age groups (39% of Gen Z and 35% of Boomers alike hold this view).

Another popular example of AI-for-good is education. By and large, the general public recognizes that AI can assist in the classroom. Over three in five U.S. adults agree (24% strongly, 41% somewhat) “the integration of AI in education can enhance learning experiences for students.” Parents are also in agreement (33% strongly and 50% somewhat, among parents with at least one child under age 18). A plurality of these parents (45%) even go as far as to say they’d be “very interested” in using AI to monitor their child’s educational progress.

Scientific research and discovery are also areas where U.S. adults see AI assisting: 36 percent believe that AI could contribute to advancements in this realm. Interestingly, Gen Z is the least likely generation to believe that AI could positively contribute to scientific research and discovery—just one in four say this—while nearly two in five (39%) Millennials believe AI can help in this way.

Chart visualizing whether U.S. adults believe AI can be used for good

Pastors See Potential for God Working Through AI
While pastors are far more likely to be wary of AI, they’re also more likely than the general population to believe that AI can be used as a tool for good: Three in four pastors (76%) believe that AI can be used to empower individuals with disabilities, and nearly three in five (57%) see its potential for making developments in health care. And one of the groups most likely to hold a belief that AI has a role to play in the future of scientific advancement is U.S. pastors. A majority of pastors (69%) tell Barna they feel AI could “contribute to advancements in scientific research and discovery.”

This could stem from a key belief that most pastors hold: 77 percent of U.S. pastors tell Barna they agree God can work through AI. In contrast, just 25 percent of U.S. Christians agree with this statement. It seems pastors are balancing steady caution when approaching AI alongside pragmatism and compassion, realizing that God can—and often does—work through the tools and technologies of our time. It’s a healthy, measured outlook on AI that may be wise to replicate, pointing Christians toward a balance of caution and optimism, rather than views based in fear or unconditional acceptance.

Chart visualizing whether Pastors and Christians believe AI can be used for good

This latest data underscores the importance of responsible development and adoption of AI, guided by ethical considerations and a commitment to using the technology as a force for positive change. It’s possible to harness the power of AI for good while mitigating potential negative consequences—and U.S. pastors see the potential for God to move in the midst of this.

For additional resources on AI & Tech, check out our Technology topic page on Barna.com or our AI, Tech & Ministry channel in Barna Access Plus

About the Research

This data is based on a survey of 800 U.S. adults, conducted from February 16–20, 2024. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. For this survey, researchers used an online panel for data collection and observed a quota random sampling methodology. Quotas were set to obtain a minimum readable sample by a variety of demographic factors and samples were weighted by region, ethnicity, education, age and gender to reflect natural presence in the American population.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash.

© Barna Group, 2024

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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