Which emerging technologies are Americans familiar with, and which are likely to stick? A recent YouGov survey explored these questions via an April survey of 1,000 US adults. The results indicate that a majority have at least heard something about 12 of the 16 technologies, but among those who are familiar, feelings about whether they will be good or bad for society are mixed.
Of the 16 technologies listed, Americans are most likely to have heard at least a little about 3D printing (89%), self-driving cars (89%), virtual reality (88%), artificial intelligence (AI; 85%), and cryptocurrency (84%). However, fewer than one-third have heard “a lot” about any of those technologies.
On the other end of the spectrum, only a minority of respondents report having heard anything at all about blockchain (44%), quantum computing (43%), implantable brain-machine interfaces (35%) and decentralized autonomous organizations (25%).
As regards some other hyped technologies, 60% have heard at least something about the metaverse, and 58% about non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Among those who have heard of each technology, more believe that they are likely than unlikely to eventually become widespread, although there’s a fair amount of variance in these opinions.
For example, among those who have heard about 3D printing, 82% believe it will likely become widespread, versus just 9% who believe that to be unlikely. Similarly, far more feel it’s likely than unlikely that virtual reality (70% and 15%, respectively), artificial intelligence (69% and 15%, respectively), and self-driving cars (66% and 19%, respectively) will become mainstream.
Towards the bottom of the list, 43% feel it’s likely the metaverse will eventually be mainstream against 24% who don’t, with the remaining third unsure. Opinions are most split for NFTs, with 39% believing they’ll become widespread against 34% who feel that’s unlikely.
As for cryptocurrency, half think it’s likely to become widespread, versus 27% unlikely and 23% unsure. The results bring to mind earlier research from YouGov, in which it found that nearly half (47%) of US adults believed cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, to be just a fad. One third also believed that cryptocurrencies will not be very widely accepted (20%) or not accepted at all (13%) as a means of legal transaction in 10 years’ time, while 3 in 10 (29%) remained unsure about cryptocurrency’s future.
Good or Bad?
Here’s where it gets a bit more mixed – assuming the technology becomes widespread, will it be good or bad for society? Among those who have heard of each technology, the most favorable opinions about societal impact are reserved for 3D printing (72% good; 9% bad), artificial organs (68% good; 13% bad), and quantum computing (59% good; 12% bad).
Attitudes to societal impact are more mixed for self-driving cars (39% good; 37% bad) and implantable brain-machine interfaces (38% good; 37% bad).
The most unfavorable outlooks are held for NFTs (23% good; 40% bad), the metaverse (25% good; 34% bad), and cryptocurrency (28% good, 37% bad).
So What Are the Most Promising Technologies?
Another question asked in the survey was which technologies those who are familiar with them think the US government should invest in. For this question the most positive results were for for quantum computing, artificial organs and 3D printing.
From there, YouGov created a metric ranking the technologies in terms of their promise, averaging “the share who said the tech (1) will eventually be widespread, (2) will be good for society, and (3) is important for the government to invest in.” YouGov then multiplied that by the percentage of respondents who had heard of the technology.
The top 5 technologies in this metric are:
- 3D printing
- Artificial intelligence
- Virtual reality
- Artificial organs
- Self-driving cars
The bottom 5 technologies in the metric are: Blockchain (#12); Metaverse (#13); NFTs (#14); Implantable brain-machine interfaces (#15); and Decentralized autonomous organization (#16).
For more, see the full results here.