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As smartphones and tablets find their way into the hands of more and more consumers, it’s apparent that people are embracing technology as part of their everyday lifestyles. And a recent Pew Research Center report U.S. Views of Technology and the Future – Science in the next 50 years finds that nearly 60% of Americans are optimistic that coming technological scientific changes will make life easier in the future.
More than 80% expect that within the next 50 years people needing new organs will have them custom grown in a lab, and 51% believe that computers will be able to create art (paintings, music, novels, etc.) that is indistinguishable from that produced by humans.
But not everyone thinks that technology is a panacea. About 30% feel these scientific advancements will lead to a future that is worse than today. And the genders see things somewhat differently. About two-thirds of men believe that technological changes will lead to a future where people’s lives are mostly better, while only 51% of women feel that way.
About two-thirds of Americans 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. This may help to explain the public wariness toward genetically modified crops. The same percentage also thinks that it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health. And 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.
Only 20% would eat meat grown in a lab; 78% would not and 2% don’t know. About one quarter of consumers like the idea of a brain implant to improve memory or mental capacity while three-quarters are against the notion. The public is evenly divided on whether or not they would like to ride in a driverless automobile—48% would be interested while 50% would not.
Two in five Americans (39%) think that teleportation will be possible within the next 50 years, while slightly fewer—33%— expect to live in a world in which humans have long-term colonies on other planets. Predicting the weather more than a day or two in advance is tricky business today, and only 19% think we will probably be able to control the weather in the future.
When asked what future invention that they would like to own, 19% of Americans selected a travel-related innovation of some kind, including a flying car or flying bike (6%), a personal spacecraft (4%), a self-driving car (3%), a teleportation device (3%), a jet pack (1%), or a hover car or hover board (1%).
Younger adults are especially excited at the prospect of new travel options in the future. Some 31% of 18–29 year olds mentioned some sort of travel-related invention as the future technology they would like to own, significantly higher than any other age group. Meanwhile, some middle-aged Americans want some help around the house—8% of those ages 30–49 said they would want a personal robot or robot servant.
Time travel and health-related inventions also rank highly. One in 10 Americans (9%) list the ability to travel through time as the futuristic invention they would like to have, and an identical 9% would want something that improved their health, increased their lifespan, or cured major diseases.
Altruistic inventions did not fare well. Only 2% chose world peace/stop wars/improved understanding/better planet or new energy source/efficient cars/other environment. And only 1% would like immortality or the ability to live forever.
At the same time, many Americans seem to be content with the technological inventions available to them today—11% answered this question by saying that there are no futuristic inventions that they would like to own, or that they are “not interested in futuristic inventions". And 28% weren’t sure what sort of futuristic invention they might like to own.
The analysis in the report was based on telephone interviews (split evenly between landline and cell phones) of 1,001 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.
For more details on the report, please visit http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/17/us-views-of-technology-and-the-future.
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