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Americans wary of futuristic science, hi-tech?

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Americans are generally excited about the new technology but when confronted with some advances that already appear possible -- from skies filled with drones to meat made in a lab -- they get nervous, according to findings of a new survey.

"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," a report released by the Pew Research Center which sought to know public opinion about our rapidly changing world of science and tech.

Overall, respondents were upbeat about how technology will shape the near future. In the report, 59 per cent of Americans think tech developments will make life in the next half-century better, while only 30 per cent said they will make life worse.

More than eight out of 10 respondents (81 per cent) said they think that in the next 50 years, people who need transplants will be able to get them with organs grown in labs. And more than half (51 per cent) think computers will be able to create art as skillfully as humans do.

Interestingly, some of the advances that may be closest to becoming reality are the ones survey respondents were most worried about.

Nearly two out of three Americans think it would make things worse if US airspace is opened up to personal drones. A similar number dislike the idea of robots being used to care for the sick and elderly, and of parents being able to alter the DNA of their unborn children.

Meanwhile, only 37 per cent of respondents think it will be good if wearable devices or implants allow us to be digitally connected all the time.

"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," CNN quoted Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew and the author of the report, as saying.

"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."

People were split almost evenly (48 per cent- 50 per cent) on whether they would ride in a driver-less car. But only 26 per cent said they'd get a brain implant to improve their memory or intelligence, and a mere 20 per cent said they would try eating meat made in a lab.

The report was based on telephone interviews conducted February13-18 with 1,001 adults from all 50 U.S. States and the District of Columbia.

First Published: Sun, April 20 2014. 16:40 IST
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