Americans are excited about the future potential of technology, but 40 percent believe emerging technologies will introduce as many new problems as solutions in the next 50 years.
This finding comes from Intel’s “Next 50” Study of 1,000 consumers, conducted with research firm PSB, to determine prevailing perceptions about the future of technology.
“Emerging technologies have the potential to transform many aspects of our everyday life,” said Genevieve Bell, director of the 3A Institute, Florence Violet McKenzie Chair and distinguished professor at the Australian National University, and a vice president and senior fellow at Intel. “Studies like this remind us about the diversity of human experience. When we talk about the future of innovation, we’re talking about a range of ideas, technologies and attitudes that will impact our lives in important ways.”
Most Exciting Technologies of the Future
Even as consumers anticipate new technologies, they remain most excited about those that are most familiar. The survey revealed that consumers expect to rely most on smartphones (87 percent) in the future. Consumers also ranked PCs (84 percent) and smart home technology (84 percent) among the most important technologies in the next 50 years.
“It’s hard to fathom going a day without using a computer or a smartphone, both of which will undoubtedly continue to evolve along with other technologies,” added Bell. “But newer, emerging technologies like AI and 5G are abstract, and harder to grasp, likely leading to anxiety around what they may bring.”
Among emerging technologies, consumers reported being the most excited about those with the potential to improve health, including genomic medicine (39 percent) and artificial materials for organ or tissue transplants (26 percent), as well as renewable energy (36 percent).
Parents Excited by AI
Artificial intelligence was especially highly rated by millennials and parents excited by its potential to assist them in their daily lives:
•51 percent of parents expect AI to increase their quality of life by enhancing and automating everyday tasks, compared to just 38 percent of respondents without kids.
•Parents are more excited than non-parents over AI’s potential to assist with human tasks (46 percent versus 39 percent of non-parents) and predict their needs (42 percent versus 30 percent of non-parents).
However, many consumers don’t recognize the role AI already plays in their lives. Despite the proliferation of voice assistants, predictive algorithms and other common AI applications, more than one-third (36 percent) of consumers think they do not own any technologies that use AI.
Anxieties and Opportunities in a World of Connections
While most consumers rely heavily on technology to stay in touch with friends and family (53 percent), many respondents reported that they fear people will develop an overdependence on technology and will spend less time interacting with each other (56 percent).
Further, 37 percent of consumers and 38 percent of tech elites are concerned people may be isolated from one another when they use technology.
Despite these anxieties, consumers are still excited by emerging technologies that could help bring people together and create more time for connections, such as 5G networks and smart home technology:
•A significant 61 percent of consumers are somewhat or very excited about the potential of speedy 5G communications. Millennials in particular are more optimistic about the future of 5G, with 45 percent saying it will bring people closer together by helping them to always be connected, as opposed to 35 percent for those aged 35 and older.
•Today, only 18 percent of consumers heavily use technology to manage their homes, but 69 percent expect to do so within 50 years.
“The possibilities of technology are boundless, but there’s also a clear responsibility for those creating and developing such innovations,” continues Bell. “Here at Intel, we’re fully committed to the next 50 years and beyond of bringing responsible, life-changing technology to people around the world.”