Even in an age of security leaks and government surveillance, amazingly, Americans still feel pretty good about the role that technology will play in their lives, according to a new study. However, when you ask them about the specific advances—like bioengineering, wearable tech, drones, and robots—Americans are a bit more wary of welcoming the future.
According to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center, Americans believe they're in for big changes over the next few decades. 81 percent of those surveyed think they'll see organs grown in labs within 50 years, and about half think that computers will be able to create art as well as their human counterparts. 39 percent think they'll be able to teleport objects (or even themselves) and 33 percent think they'll be living on other planets. Only 19 percent think weather control will be possible. (Really, we can do all that and not make it rain? Which we already can kinda do?)
For the most part, Americans are feeling positive about the impact that technology will have on society: 59 percent said they were "optimistic that coming technological and scientific changes will make life in the future better."
But even with that mostly sunny outlook, when asked about the impact of particular technologies, the stance that most Americans took was more like oh, hell, no:
- 66% think it would be a change for the worse if prospective parents could alter the DNA of their children to produce smarter, healthier, or more athletic offspring.
- 65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.
- 63% think it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.
- 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them. Women are especially wary of a future in which these devices are widespread.
There's no doubt that certain emerging technologies like Google Glass and drones aren't getting the best press lately. And genetic alteration certainly treads on moral ground. But robot caregivers are already standard in many countries. Why are friendly robots scarier than drones?
To summarize: The future of technology is bright—but change itself is scary.
If you weren't one of the lucky Americans polled for this survey, you can head over to Smithsonian Magazine, where they have reproduced the questions so you can answer them and compare your thoughts with the actual results. [Pew Research Center, Smithsonian]