Pew Research: America’s Wavering Opinion On Futuristic Technologies

Pew Research: America’s Wavering Opinion On Futuristic Technologies

A national survey shows Americans' unsettled feelings on drones, weather control, and designer DNA.

Leah Gonzalez
  • 23 april 2014

With 3D printing, bionic limbs and gesture-controlled devices gaining traction, our world has changed a lot since the days of our grandparents. According to the results of a national survey recently conducted by the Pew Research Center in partnership with Smithsonian Magazine, Americans foresee a large number of major scientific happenings in the next 50 years.

The survey asked Americans about various aspects of technology, including robotics and bio-engineering, as well as “futuristic” concepts like teleportation, space colonization, and even weather control. The survey also asked the participants for their scientific predictions and about their feelings and thoughts towards new inventions and developments that may soon become part of everyday life.

According to the results of the survey, most of the participants think that the new technologies and advancements in the next 50 years will have a positive impact on society. A little more than half (59%) feel that upcoming technological and scientific changes will improve the quality of life, while 30% think that they will only make people worse off than they already are.

With 81% of respondents expecting custom-grown organs to be a reality for people in need, it seems that Americans are quite optimistic about the potential of “futuristic” scientific breakthroughs. Over 51% expect computers to be able to create music, paintings, novels, and other important pieces of art that will be indistinguishable from man-made work.

Despite the high level of optimism and expectations, it looks like most of the survey participants think humans still have a long way to go when it comes to developments like teleportation, space colonization, and weather control. Only 39% expect that the technology to teleport objects will be developed and only 33% think man will be able to colonize another planet. In addition, only 19% think man will be able to develop the technology to control the weather in the next 50 years.


In contrast to the optimism and high expectations, the survey results showed that most Americans are a bit uneasy when it comes to controversial advancements that are looming in the near future. Some 53% think wearing implants or other devices that constantly show information about the world would only make things worse. Women, in particular, do not feel positively about wearing these devices. Two-thirds of participants (66%) think it would be a change for the worse if parents were able to “design” their babies’ DNA. Lastly, 63% think allowing personal and commercial drones to fly over most of the US airspace wouldn’t be such a good idea.

When it comes to new technologies that may emerge relatively soon, people are not averse to them but would rather let others try them out first. About half would be interested in getting on a driverless car, while the other half are not so keen. Most of the respondents, however, would not consider brain implants to improve their memory or mental function, or eat lab-grown meat. Only 26% would consider brain implants and only 20% would eat lab-grown meat.

The survey respondents were also asked to describe in their own words the kind of inventions that they would like to own in the future. The top three common answers included travel improvements like flying vehicles or personal space crafts, time travel capabilities, and health solutions that can prolong life or cure major illnesses.

The complete report can be found on the Pew Research Center website.

Pew Research
Images: Wonderlane CC BY 2.0, reynermedia CC BY 2.0

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