A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that the majority of Americans are optimistic about the future. But when asked about specifics, they demonstrated a pronounced nervousness about some of the most plausible and beneficial advancements.
Top image: Deus Ex: Human Revolution concept art by Jim Murray. According to the poll, 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wore cybernetic implants.
Nearly 60% of Americans who responded to the poll say they're optimistic that coming technological and scientific changes will make life in the future better, while 30% believe these changes will lead to a future in which people are worse off than they are today.
But they conveyed a much different story when asked about specifics — particularly those advancement that sounded a little too scifi. For example,
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.
Crazily, only 48% said they'd like to ride in a driverless car (I say crazily because autonomous vehicles will be considerably safer than those driven by humans). A scant 26% said they'd be willing to get a brain implant to improve their intelligence or memory. And disappointingly, only 20% would eat lab-grown meat.
This said, the vast majority of Americans are genuinely excited by the prospect of lab-grown organs.
Americans are also pessimistic about what's coming down the pipe. Only 39% believe scientists will have figured out teleportation, 33% say we'll have long-term space colonies by 2064, and only 19% expect humans will be able to control the weather. Personally, I fully expect the latter two.
When asked to describe the kinds of advancements they themselves would like to see, Americans responded with travel improvements (like flying cars and bikes, or even personal spacecraft), time travel, and, mercifully, health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases.
"In the long run, Americans are optimistic about the impact that scientific developments will have on their lives and the lives of their children — but they definitely expect to encounter some bumps along the way," said Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew and the author of the report. "They are especially concerned about developments that have the potential to upend long-standing social norms around things like personal privacy, surveillance, and the nature of social relationships."
The report, which was done in conjunction with Smithsonian Magazine, was based on telephone interviews conducted February 13 to 18 with 1,001 adults from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
There's much more to this survey. Check it out here.