AFRICANGLOBE – A recent report released by the Pew Research Center, which sought to gauge public opinion about our rapidly changing world, found that while people are generally upbeat about anticipated developments in science and technology, there’s no shortage of apprehension.
The report, which was based on telephone interviews conducted in February with 1,001 adults from all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, found that some of the advances that may be closest to becoming reality are the ones survey respondents were most wary of, moreover.
Nearly two out of three Americans dislike the idea of robots being used to care for the sick and elderly, and of parents being able to customize the DNA of their unborn children. A similar number think it would be inadvisable to open up US airspace to personal drones.
About the same proportion of respondents are not keen on the idea of wearable devices or implants allowing us to be permanently digitally connected.
Additional responses illustrated what may be our predominantly cautious human nature. Although generally interested in future technology, many survey participants weren’t so interested in testing those advances themselves – in many cases, quite the reverse.
While people were fairly evenly split (48 percent to 50 percent) on whether they would ride in a driverless car, a mere 20% said they’d try eating meat made in a lab, and only 26 percent said they’d get a brain implant to improve their memory or intelligence.
They’re less than optimistic about some science-fiction staples coming to pass in the next 50 years, too. Only 39 percent think it is likely scientists will have figured out teleportation, just 33 percent believe we’ll have long-term space colonies, and a mere 19 percent expect mankind will be able to control the weather.
Overall, however, respondents were upbeat about how technology will shape the future, with 59 percent thinking technological developments will make life in the next half-century better, and only 30 percent believing they will make life worse.
More than eight out of 10 respondents said they think that in the next 50 years, people who need transplant surgery will be able to get it with organs grown in laboratories. And more than half think computers will be able to create art as well as humans do.
“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 longstanding social norms around things like personal privacy, surveillance, and the nature of social relationships.”
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