For Marketing Planning 50 Years Out

According to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine, 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. 59% of Americans are optimistic that coming technological and scientific changes will make life in the future better, while 30% think these changes will lead to a future in which people are worse off than they are today.

81% expect that within the next 50 years people needing new organs will have them custom grown in a lab, and 51% expect that computers will be able to create art that is indistinguishable from that produced by humans. On the other hand, 39% expect that scientists will have developed the technology to teleport objects, and 33% expect that humans will have colonized planets other than Earth. 19% of Americans expect that humans will be able to control the weather in the foreseeable future, says the report.

At the same time that many expect science to produce great breakthroughs in the coming decades, there are widespread concerns about some controversial technological developments that might occur on a shorter time horizon:

  • 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. Women are especially wary of a future in which these devices are widespread

The public is evenly divided on whether or not they would like to ride in a driverless car, says the report: 48% would be interested, while 50% would not. But significant majorities say that they are not interested in getting a brain implant to improve their memory or mental capacity (26% would, 72% would not), or in eating meat that was grown in a lab (just 20% would like to do this).

Describing in their own words the futuristic inventions they themselves would like to own, the public offered three common themes:

  • Travel improvements like flying cars and bikes, or even personal space crafts
  • Time travel
  • Health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases

At the same time, 11% said that there are no futuristic inventions that they would like to own, or that they are “not interested in futuristic inventions.” And 28% weren’t sure what sort of futuristic invention they might like to own.

Of the four potential developments measured, public attitudes towards wearable or implanted computing devices are the least negative. Though 53% of Americans think it would be a bad thing if “most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them,” 37% think this would be a change for the better.

Men are evenly split on whether this would be a good thing: 44% feel that it would be a change for the better and 46% a change for the worse. But women overwhelmingly feel (by a 59%–29% margin) that the widespread use of wearable or implanted devices would be a negative development.

The public is largely unenthusiastic about the legal and regulatory framework for operating non-military drones, says the report. 63% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if “personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace,” while 22% think it would be a change for the better.

Of three inventions discussed in the report:

  • Americans are most interested in riding in a driverless car. Though 52% of urban and 51% of suburban residents are interested in driverless cars, 36% of rural residents say this is something they’d find appealing
  • 26% of Americans say they would get a brain implant to improve their memory or mental capacity if it were possible to do so. College graduates are the main demographic group that stands out on this issue, with 37% of them saying that they would be willing to get a performance-enhancing brain implant if given the chance
  • 20% of Americans would be willing to eat meat that was grown in a lab. Again, college graduates are around three times as likely as those who have not attended college to say this is something they’d attempt (30% vs. 11%)

In addition to specific inventions or future outcomes, the respondents offered, in their on words, which futuristic invention they themselves would want to own:

  • Many Americans are looking forward to a future in which getting from place to place is easier, more comfortable, or more adventuresome than it is today
  • One in ten Americans list the ability to travel through time as the futuristic invention they would like to have
  • 9% would want something that improved their health, increased their lifespan, or cured major diseases

At the same time, many Americans seem to feel happy with the technological inventions available to them in the here and now, concludes the report.

The survey, conducted by landline and cell phones among 1,001 adults, examined a number of potential future developments in the field of science and technology, some just over the horizon, others more speculative in nature. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

For the complete study from Pew Research, please visit here.

 

 

 

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1 comment about "For Marketing Planning 50 Years Out ".
  1. Susan Breidenbach from Broadbrook Associates , May 7, 2014 at 1:24 p.m.
    Unfortunately, technology advances aren't manna that falls down from heaven no matter what we do. They are created by human action, and funded by seed wheat. If we really expect to get these things, we'd better stop eating our seed wheat at unprecedented levels. Otherwise, all Americans have to look forward to 50 years from now is a whole lot of debt and poverty.