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ChatGPT: Is it a good or bad thing? Canadians are divided, poll suggests

Click to play video: 'Canadians split on ChatGPT, but it depends on knowledge of software: poll'
Canadians split on ChatGPT, but it depends on knowledge of software: poll
WATCH: Canadians split on ChatGPT, but it depends on knowledge of software: poll – Mar 24, 2023

Canadians are split as to whether the emergence of a new artificial intelligence tool is either good or bad for society, a new poll suggests.

However, those who said they know of ChatGPT are far more likely to feel that it’s a good thing, compared with those who have not, an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News last month found.

“Most of the attitudes about ChatGPT are driven simply by familiarity with the concept,” said Sean Simpson, senior vice president of public affairs at Ipsos.

“It’s a classic case of fear of the unknown. There’s trepidation out there when it comes to technological innovation.”

Released to the public last November by developer OpenAI, ChatGPT can be anything the user makes of it — it can take on the role of a chef and provide recipes, make business plans for marketers, create press releases for public relations specialists or give advice like a therapist.

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Microsoft, which has backed OpenAI, plans to integrate the technology into some of its products. Vehicle manufacturer General Motors is exploring uses for ChatGPT as part of its broader collaboration with Microsoft.

Its extremely popular uptake has led to rivals introducing similar products like Google’s Bard and Baidu’s Ernie. However, ChatGPT’s emergence hasn’t been met with widespread praise: concerns around misinformation and plagiarism have emerged. OpenAI said on Jan. 31 it was releasing a new tool that can help teachers detect work not written by the student who submitted it.

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It also last week released GPT-4, an upgraded ChatGPT that can now analyze not only text, but images as well. The addition of “computer vision” allows the AI’s users to input photos and drawings, which the model can analyze and, seemingly, understand.

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The 1,350 Canadians surveyed by Ipsos found that of those who know of ChatGPT, 45 per cent feel that those technologies are a good thing, while 31 per cent disagree and 24 per cent are unsure.

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Forty-two per cent of respondents said they knew of ChatGPT, while 58 per cent said they did not. Men (53 per cent) and those aged between 18 to 34 (57 per cent) were significantly more likely to say they could recall having heard of ChatGPT than women (32 per cent) and those aged between 35 to 54 (40 per cent) and 55 or older (33 per cent).

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Of those who are aware of ChatGPT, men (50 per cent) were more likely than women (38 per cent) to feel the technology is a good thing, as are younger Canadians (55 per cent 18 to 24 and 51 per cent 35 to 54 compared with 27 per cent 55 or older) and those with higher incomes (35 per cent <$40K; 47 per cent $40K-<$60K; 55 per cent $60K-<$100K; 54 per cent $100K+).

The poll also suggests that those with the highest and lowest education levels (55 per cent university graduates; 52 per cent high school) were most likely to feel this technology is a good thing, while those with mid-level education (37 per cent some post-secondary; 37 per cent high school graduates) were less positive.

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Of those Canadians who don’t know of ChatGPT, 30 per cent feel the development of these technologies is a bad thing, compared with 21 per cent who felt the opposite and 50 per cent who were undecided.

The demographic differences among those aware remain mostly consistent among those unaware: men (28 per cent) are more likely than women (16 per cent) to feel the technology is a good thing, as are younger Canadians (32 per cent 18 to 34 and 24 per cent 35 to 54 vs. 13 per cent 55 or older).

The education effect is slightly different in this subgroup, as those with higher education levels (30 per cent university graduates) are the most favourable compared withall other age groups (18 per cent some post-secondary, 21 per cent high school graduate vs. 17 per cent with no high school diploma). Ipsos found no marked differences by income among this group.

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“Until we have a better understanding of what the implications are on the workforce, the labour force, on the economy and on short-term, medium-term and long-term trends, I think Canadians will be nervous by the uncertainty that this all brings,” Simpson said.

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“As we learn more and understand more, I suspect that support for more inclusion of ChatGPT in various ways will increase.”

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between Feb. 15 and 17, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,350 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

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