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our expectations are generally unexcited and restrained. The bold imagination of 20th-century American visions seems to have gone for a nap. As Smithsonian’s article notes, “Most Americans view the technology- driven future with a sense of hope. They just don’t want to live there.” We’re actually less excited than that
- 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. (emphases in original)
When it comes to specific emerging technologies we often greet them with broad, deep skepticism and fear, including human genetic engineering, robotics, drones, and wearable computing:
The heroic days of NASA in the popular imagination are long flown: “One in three (33%) expect that humans will have colonized planets other than Earth.” Indeed. a few more Americans actually see teleportation happening.
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Overall, Americans look at the future of science and technology with some hefty amounts of skepticism and dismay. Health care improvements do appeal to us, unsurprisingly, given our ageing demographics. Classic futures themes of space and travel have withered in our collective mind. I’m reminded of Bruce Sterling’s aphorism about the rest of the 21st century: “The future is about old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky.”