Artificial intelligence; for years now, media outlets, like this site, have been writing about the possibilities, benefits and application areas of AI, helping people understand the difference between neural networks and machine learning. But is the media too one-sided in shedding light on the new technology?
In the study “How Germany writes about algorithms” the Bertelsmann Foundation, in cooperation with the University of Bremen, now reveals a very one-sided picture. Analyzing 18,000 articles between 2005 and 2020, the study’s analysts look at coverage of artificial intelligence in leading media, blogs and social media.
Even though the share of the topic AI became more and more important in the last years and became more and more often a special topic in the media. From just 17 mentions per month in 2010, we were at nearly 500 monthly AI topics ten years later. In the process, AI was mostly viewed as a technology, product, or future of business and put in context with big tech companies. A look at the last few years on this site also confirms this analysis, as Facebook, Google and Co are often the focus of the latest developments from the field of thinking machines.
But the study shows clear blind spots, because the reporting is too one-sided, too economic and not tangible enough. Artificial intelligence is mostly in the context of new business models and the transformation of the economy and the professional world, but it is rarely about access to artificial intelligence or about government services and funding in this area. Even otherwise, the articles about artificial intelligence tend to be very positive. Rarely is there a precise weighing of advantages and disadvantages; instead, the focus is on the opportunities. The study shows that 42 percent of the articles were positive and only 12 percent were clearly negative.
Even though I actually like this positive tenor, as an innovation profiler and future strategist, I take the view that it is important to reflect on the possibilities of the technology and to understand both the opportunities and the challenges in order to really make a decision on how best to use it. The results of the study show that a change in reporting is needed here, because topics such as intransparency or lack of competencies are addressed – according to the study – but quickly fall under the table again.
Open discourse is what matters and what we must all seek in our technological society. Don’t get me wrong here, I am a friend of thinking in terms of opportunities and visions, but in order for us to really bring AI into our businesses and our everyday lives, we need to address all the questions from the general public, employees, and also ethicists and philosophers in order to paint and communicate a truly clear and fully comprehensive picture of the possibilities of artificial intelligence.