Most Americans anticipate that the technological developments of the coming half-century will have a net positive impact on society, according to a study by Pew Research, which asked participants about a wide range of potential scientific developments—from near-term advances like robotics and bioengineering, to more “futuristic” possibilities like teleportation or space colonization.
Some 59 percent of those surveyed said they are optimistic that coming technological and scientific changes will make life in the future better, while 30 percent said they think these changes will lead to a future in which people are worse off than they are today.
At the same time, many Americans appear to feel happy with the technological inventions available to them in the here and now—11 percent 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.”
A further 28 percent said they weren’t even sure what sort of futuristic invention they might like to own. Time travel, futuristic transportation and health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases were among the most popular future inventions.
Fully eight in 10 (81 percent) expect that within the next 50 years people needing new organs will have them custom grown in a lab, and just over half (51 percent) expect that computers will be able to create art that is indistinguishable from that produced by humans.
On the other hand, fewer than half of Americans—39 percent—expect that scientists will have developed the technology to teleport objects, and one in three (33 percent) expect that humans will have colonized planets other than Earth.
Certain terrestrial challenges are viewed as even more daunting, as just 19 percent of Americans expect that humans will be able to control the weather in the foreseeable future.
In an indication that wearable technologies may have a limited impact on the consumer market, 53 percent of Americans said they 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.
The survey revealed that women are especially wary of a future in which these devices are widespread.
Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents said they 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, and 65 percent thought it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.