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4/19/2014
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Wearables, Drones Scare Americans

Google has some public relations to do. People remain wary of tech breakthroughs including care-giving robots and drones, Pew research finds.

Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Most Americans think technology will improve society, but they are concerned about specific avenues of research. A survey conducted by the nonprofit Pew Research Center finds doubts about expected technological change, mixed in with the optimism.

For Google, which has struggled to make its Glass computerized eyewear socially acceptable, for Amazon, which has floated the possibility of delivering packages by drone, and for other companies banking on the future, the survey's findings suggest that research budgets should be matched by investments in public relations. The future may be bright but people are more comfortable with the present.

Overall, the 1,001 US adults surveyed by Pew researchers expect technology will make the world a better place. Among the respondents, 59% expressed optimism that coming technological changes will make life better, while 30% anticipated a future where people are worse off.

Eight in ten think society will benefit from lab-grown organs in the next 50 years while half of those surveyed foresee computers that will be able create art that's indistinguishable from what a human can make.

[For a glance at the past, read Web Turns 25: 10 Graphics To See.]

At the same time, a surprisingly large percentage of people anticipate unrealistic scenarios. For example, 39% think scientists will be able to teleport objects within 50 years. That number should be much closer to zero.

Respondents exhibited worry about technologies that have attracted significant recent investment in Silicon Valley. Fifty three percent of Americans believe society will suffer if "most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them." About 37% disagree and see wearable and implantable devices as a change for the better. Asked whether they would be interested in riding in driverless cars, only 48% would do so given the option.

As far as personal and commercial drones are concerned, 63% of respondents think we'll be worse off if the FAA allows them to operate in commercial airspace. A slightly higher percentage of people, 65%, see the prospect of robot caregivers for the elderly as undesirable. And 66% of those surveyed dislike the idea of parents altering the DNA of their children to make them healthier, smarter, or more athletic.

About 72% rejected the idea of a brain implant to improve mental capacity and 78% expressed disinterest in eating lab-grown meat.

The study also underscores the need for technology companies to pay more attention to income inequality. That's an issue Google has confronted in San Francisco, where the success of technology companies is now often blamed for the shortage of affordable housing and where those outside the industry feel left behind.

Among those surveyed, the likelihood of concern about the future rose as income declined. Thirty-eight percent of respondents with an income of $30,000 or less expected technology would make people's lives worse; for those making $75,000 or more, only 22% believed technology will have a negative impact on society.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 10:46:18 AM
Re: Lab Meat--Yes!!!
I don't think I'm overstating the adverse effects of the industrial scale of raising animals for food.

http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/16/6076234/citing-health-risks-california.html

http://theweek.com/article/index/252346/5-modern-diseases-grown-by-factory-farming

Unfortunately, I don't have any immediate solution to hand, other than to encourage people to eat less meat. I also recognize that there are significant adverse effects from the industrial growth of fruits, vegetables and grains, too. Vegans and vegetarians don't get to absolve themselves. We all need to do the best we can, and maybe some day lab-grown meat will be a more sustainable, healthier option.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2014 | 10:59:34 PM
Re: Lab Meat--Yes!!!
While I agree with you on the lab meat, I'd suggest that the rest might be a mild overstatement, at least in many cases.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
4/28/2014 | 10:08:45 AM
Re: Lab Meat--Yes!!!
There's nothing natural about the majority of meat production today. We're not talking about happy cows grazing in the sunshine. We're talking about acres of feedlots with thousands of animals jammed together, standing around in their own excrement and being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics to speed growth and keep them from dying from unsanitary conditions.

I think most people choose not to think about how industrialized and unnatural our meat production system is. And if they're able to not think about today's cruel and unnatural method, I think they can just as easily not think about lab-grown meat. It may not be natural, but at least it wouldn't be cruel.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/26/2014 | 1:52:02 AM
Re: Wearables, Drones Scare Americans
Presumably, if self-driving cars can be programmed to not crash into each other or other obstacles, so too can self-piloted drones.


Presumably.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/26/2014 | 1:51:15 AM
Re: Lab Meat--Yes!!!
But that's the point... "It's not natural" -- and thus "inorganic."

If it was up to the hippie protesters, we'd all be living off of plants and nuts on communes working as farmers.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/26/2014 | 1:49:23 AM
Blah to these statistics
I read somewhere many years ago something along the lines of the following:

Autocracy is based on the fallacy that 1 man is right and 10,000 men are wrong.

Democracy is based on the fallacy that 10,000 men are right and 1 man is wrong.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 7:45:29 AM
Re: Wearables, Drones Scare Americans
Those are definitely valid concerns but what about  small drones like "big dog" that are designed to  go off road and carry heavy loads.  I would imagine that DARPA has a method of mapping terrain on the fly that could be adapted to a similar drone.  Navigating around obstacles like closed roadways or accidents wouldn't be unheard of.  The arial drones have to deal with the same issues why would we not expect similar systems to be used in a ground based drone?  
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
4/21/2014 | 4:11:02 PM
Re: Wearables, Drones Scare Americans
My guess is delivery drones/self-driving delivery trucks won't function well outside of controlled environments. There are too many unexpected scenarios that will come up, like an intersection that has been blocked for some reason. Automated systems will have to phone home for advice on how to cope -- they won't be able to improvise. In the end, they'll require so many remote operators that it will be easier just to hire biological intelligence to handle navigation directly.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
4/21/2014 | 11:04:21 AM
Lab Meat--Yes!!!
I don't understand why people have such a negative reaction to lab-grown meat. Do people understand the factory-like production systems in use today raise, slaughter and process meat? There's absolutely nothing natural about it. Lab-grown meat could be safer and more humane. My guess is we'll see lab-grown meat at McDonald's long before drones being used for home delivery.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/21/2014 | 8:31:45 AM
Re: Wearables, Drones Scare Americans
I don't think the biggest problem with drone delivery is the loss of jobs.  I think it's the fact that things will be buzzing overhead.  We're not used to having to worry about what is above us at all times so it's a bit concerning.  I think that the more logical first step in drone delivery should be ground based.  A larger drone truck that drops off smaller vehicles that can deliver to the front door then the smaller drones come back to get new packages and the larger truck moves to the next neighborhood.  People don't seem too freaked out by Google's robot car so I don't think a robot UPS van would be any different.  The smaller drones may only travel a block or two once the larger truck enters a neighborhood so it wouldn't be like having airborne drones buzzing a neighborhood.
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