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Future tech: Americans foresee made-to-order organs, teleportation and robots

Future tech: Americans foresee made-to-order organs, teleportation and robots

But they're nervous about the drone use and implantables

Many Americans think the next 50 years will bring custom-ordered, made-to-order organ generation, teleportation and robots that will take care of the elderly and sick.

And they're largely hopeful about technology in the future, with 59% optimistic that coming technological and scientific changes will make life better, according to a study from The Pew Research Center.

However, 30% said they think the coming changes will make them worse off than they are now.

"Many Americans pair their long-term optimism with high expectations for the inventions of the next half century," Pew researchers said in the report. "But 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."

On the positive side, the telephone survey of 1,001 adult Americans in February showed that 81% expect that within the next 50 years people who need new organs, whether it's a liver, kidney or heart, will have them custom grown in a lab. And 51% said they expect computers will be able to create art that is so good it will be indistinguishable from art produced by humans.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said he's glad that people are largely excited about what the future of technology will hold.

"I think this is both pretty positive and pretty sensible," he told Computerworld. "The progress in medical technology has been incredible. And that's where mobile technology could be world-changing. I'm very positive about medicine."

However, the study also showed that there are several areas where people aren't so enthused.

If scientists figure out how parents could alter their children's DNA to produce smarter, healthier or more athletic kids, 66% said it would be a bad thing.

The study also showed that 65% are against robots becoming primary caregivers for the elderly and sick, while 53% are against implants and other devices that give people information about the world around them. A full 63% are against commercial drones using U.S. airspace.

A lot of people also think technology advancements might not get us to a sci-fi-like world so soon.

Only 39% said teleportation will be a reality within 50 years, and just 33% said humans will colonize other planets in the same timeframe.

However, 19% said humans will be able to control the weather.

While Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said he's happy about the general optimism, he thinks there's virtually no chance of scientists perfecting teleportation in the next 50 years and he's surprised that a half of those surveyed wouldn't ride in a driverless car .

"Imagine the time savings if you could just be a passenger," he added. "I am excited about the positive aspects of self-driving cars, as they will lead to shorter and safer commutes and the eradication of drinking and driving deaths."

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said the high-tech industry needs to pay attention to what makes people nervous.

"If you have dissenting people who are really against it, they can work hard to block it," he added. "With robotics, if we put a lot of people out of work in a short period of time, it's going to be bad. We have to think through how we implement the technology and the concerns people have. If they're worried about alien cows taking over the planet, well, that's not a big worry. But if people are worried about losing their jobs, we have to really address that."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.

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