Americans are optimistic about scientific inventions on the horizon, though are cautious about future uses of DNA, robots, drones and always-on implants, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey on future technology.
The landline and cellphone survey of 1,001 adults in the United States was designed to get a sense for what sorts of advances Americans anticipate and how they feel about them. More than half (59%) of those surveyed are optimistic about technological and scientific changes ahead, while about a third think such change will be for the worse. Age wasn’t a huge factor in broad attitudes toward change, though younger respondents were more open to developments such as new transportation options.
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Asked about the likelihood of certain advances 50 years from now, survey respondents were most sure that lab-grown custom organs for transplant will happen (81%). Only 19% expect humans will be able to control the weather by then.
Americans seemed particularly skittish about health-related advances, with two-thirds saying it would be a change for the worse if prospective parents could alter the DNA of their children to produce super-smart and athletic progeny. Two-thirds also say handing over the job of primary caregiver to the elderly and sick to robots would be a step backwards from today. Implants that go beyond Google Glass and that would give people constant information about the world around them also received a lukewarm reception, with 53% saying this would be a change for the worse, and women were particularly leery about this possibility.
Survey respondents were split on whether they’d like to hand over the keys to driverless cars, and 72% appeared freaked out about brain implants to improve memory or mental capacity. Though in general, those surveyed are interested in travel improvements – including time travel.
Pew Research Center conducted this survey in conjunction with Smithsonian magazine.
Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog.