November 30, 2020

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Malaysians excited about space exploration

The International Science Survey 2019-2020 examined the attitudes of Malaysians towards robots and automation in the workplace, artificial intelligence (AI), and involved 20 countries.

Robots

In the survey results released in September, the 1,650 Malaysians polled had mixed views towards the use of robots for workplace automation. About 51%  regarded this as bad for society while 45% said it has been good; only 3% felt it has been both good and bad for society.

The Malaysian respondents, who were polled via phone between October to November 2019 in Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, and English, responded to the question of whether they felt using robots to automate many jobs humans have done in the past is mostly a good or bad thing for society on the whole, after considering all the advantages and disadvantages.

Artificial Intelligence

Similarly, when asked about the development of AI or computer systems designed to imitate human behaviours, Malaysians had mixed views. About 53%said it has mostly been good for society, while 44% indicated that it has mostly been bad for society. Only 3% said it has been both good and bad for society, and 1% declined to answer or gave other answers.

Space exploration

Malaysians were much significantly keener on space. When asked about the government’s space exploration programme at the National Space Agency (Angkasa), 83% of the 1,650 Malaysians polled said it has been good for society, while 14% said it has been bad for society.

How do other Asian countries view robots and AI?

In the same survey, most of Malaysia’s peers in the Asia-Pacific region displayed a more positive attitude towards the use of robots at the workplace to replace human labour, with comparatively more saying it was a good thing for society in Japan (68%), Taiwan and South Korea’s respondents both at 62%, Singapore (61%).

In India, 47% of respondents said it was good while 27% it was bad, with Australia displaying a mixed view with 47% saying it was bad and 44% saying it was good.

As for the development of AI, about two-thirds or more in most of the Asia-Pacific countries viewed it as a good thing, including 72% of Singapore’s respondents, South Korea (69%), India (67%), Taiwan (66%), Japan (65%), while Australia recorded 49% saying it was good and 39% saying it was bad.

The Pew Research Center referred to its own 2018 survey on the view in 10 developing and developed countries towards job automation by robots and computers to replace the work done by humans currently, with a majority of the respondents thinking that it is likely that people would have a hard time finding jobs and that the inequality or gap between the rich and poor would worsen.

Other factors

The International Science Survey 2019-2020 of 20 countries generally found that men in most countries were more positive about both robots and AI but the difference between genders was not statistically significant in Malaysia.

When examined according to the gender of the respondents in Malaysia, 50% of women and 55% of men found AI to be a good thing for society, while 43% of women and 48% of men found robots at the workplace to be good. The Center noted that age was not a factor in the respondents’ views in most countries surveyed on the topic of automation.

On the topic of AI, however, 10 of the countries surveyed showed that younger adults (or those younger than the median age of the pool of respondents) are more likely than older adults to say the development of AI has been good. The pollster noted that in Malaysia, the pattern is reversed, with older adults seeing AI more positively than younger adults (57% vs. 49%, respectively).

Education does play a significant role in the views of Malaysian respondents, with 52% of those with less education and 59% of those with more education or who studied beyond secondary school saying AI has been good for society. Correspondingly, for the use of robots to automate jobs, significant differences were found in views based on education levels of Malaysian respondents, with 44% of those with less education and 53% of those with more education viewing automation positively.

On workplace automation, taking more science courses in post-secondary studies also makes a difference for Malaysian respondents, with 49% of those who took zero to two science courses and 61% of those who took three or more science courses saying that using robots to automate human jobs is a good thing.