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New poll shows Google’s Glass, robots and self-driving cars are tough sells

Published Apr 17th, 2014 3:45PM EDT
Google Glass Self-Driving Cars Robots

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According to a recent survey, Americans are excited for futuristic technology that you might see in a sci-fi novel, but are anxious about how we’ll get there. That’s the conclusion from a report from a Pew Research Center released today which asked 1,000 Americans what they thought of various technological advancements.

The American public anticipates that the coming half-century will be a period of profound scientific change, as inventions that were once confined to the realm of science fiction come into common usage,” according to the report.

For inventions that are not expected soon, but in the next 50 years, respondents were generally optimistic. 59% said they think technology will improve life in the next half-century, and 81% said they think people who need organ transplants will be able to use lab-grown organs. Additionally, 51% said they believed computers would be able to make art that was indistinguishable from art made by humans.

In comparison, Americans were much less optimistic about technology that is almost already here. 53% said that it would be a change for the worse if wearable devices or implants kept us always connected to information, such as Google Glass or the rumored iWatch. 50%, meanwhile, said they would not even be interested in riding in a self-driving car, which just happens to be another major Google initiative.

63% said it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones were allowed to fly through American airspace. 65% think it would be a change for the worse if life-like robots were caregivers for the elderly and sick. And 66% think it would be a change for the worse if parents could alter the DNA of their unborn children.

“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 Pew researcher Aaron Smith. “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 survey also concluded that Americans are skeptical about many of the stereotypical sci-fi fantasies. Only 39% think we’ll be able to teleport, 33% think we’ll have space colonies, and 19% think we’ll be able to control the weather in 50 years.