A Third of Americans Think Technology Is Going to Ruin Their Lives

Lots of people are scared of the future.

Apr 17 2014, 3:50pm
The future, as imagined by some stock photographer. Image: Shutterstock

One third of all Americans think that technology will lead to changes that are detrimental to society and to their lives, according to the results of a new PEW Research Center poll.

The poll is one of the best looks at what Americans really think of most of the things we write about here at Motherboard, from commercial drones and lab-grown meats to genetic engineering, servant robots, and body hacking. To be honest, it’s a bit of a sobering reminder that not everyone is excited about a lot of this stuff as we are (and that people are scared of the same things we are). In general, people think that technology is going to make our lives better, but when you drill down into specifics, you get a different picture. 

Americans are more likely to say that they would not ride in a driverless car than gladly hop in one, nearly 8 in 10 said they would not eat meat grown in a lab, and three quarters say they would not have a brain implant that improves their memory or mental capacity (where’s your sense of adventure, people?). 

Two thirds of respondents said that America would be worse if personal or delivery drones were completely legalized, two thirds said that robot caregivers for the elderly are a bad idea, two thirds said that parents shouldn’t be allowed to alter the DNA of their prospective children, and 53 percent said body hacking would make our lives worse.

Image: PEW Research Center

Meanwhile, people are fairly optimistic about our technological capabilities, even if they aren’t sure if rapidly-advancing tech is such a good idea. Looking 50 years out, one in five Americans believes we’ll be able to completely control the weather, a third of Americans believe we’ll have long-term space colonies, and 39 percent believe we’ll be able to teleport objects. Half of Americans think computers will make art just as well as humans do, and 80 percent think we’ll grow custom-made organs in a laboratory for transplantation (good guess on that one).

Pretty shockingly, younger people aren’t any more likely to say that technological changes will lead to a future where people’s lives are better: 59 percent of people between 18-29 said that tech will make their lives better, the same percentage as those aged 50-64. 

Surveyors interviewed 1,001 people across the United States, in all 50 states and Washington, DC. Half of those respondents were on landline phones, which might explain a bit of the trepidation—who’s still answering landline phones these days? In any case—the entire poll results are worth checking out.