New technologies often prompt strong emotional reactions. But with the pace of development of seemingly game changing technologies like AI, self-driving cars, and robots over the last few years, people seem particularly high strung.
With a near-constant stream of dire headlines and contradictory prognosticating by industry heavyweights like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, it's hard to get a read on how the public is really feeling.
CBT Nuggets, which is an online training platform for IT professionals, conducted an interesting survey to gain some insights. The company asked 500 people to rank several technologies based on how concerned and excited the technologies make them.
The results seem to reflect a mix of optimism and trepidation about a world that's rapidly changing as machines get smarter and more independent. Key indicators like gender and age played a big role in respondents' perceptions.
A full dip into the results, which includes information about how long respondents believe it will take for some of these technologies to become a reality, is worth your time, but here are the top page findings.
Does your experience diverge from the survey results? Be sure to use that comment box.
The concern/excitement grid
Plotting out the responses on a grid, there are two technologies that most respondents agreed were alternately very exciting and extremely concerning. Charging through WiFi, which a recent Apple patent suggests could be a possibility, is pretty great.
Swarms of autonomous drones, which are pretty much already a technological reality, if not a legislative one? Not so much.
Fears ranked by generation
There are some interesting differences between which of the technologies respondents of different ages found most concerning. Setting aside swarms of autonomous drones, which seem to terrify everyone (and I'd guess that the word "swarms" skewed the results), millennials are most scared of computers that teach themselves.
Gen-Xers, by contrast, are more worried about self-driving cars, while Boomers seemed to find flying cars quite concerning. Both millennials and Gen Xers ranked flying cars as much less concerning, coming in at fifth most concerning in each case.
Among respondents, women were more concerned than men about every category of technology except for self-learning computers and robots that teach each other. Men were slightly more concerned about bot of these technologies.
Concern/excitement by generation
Millennial respondents were, on average, far more excited about the technologies named in the survey than older respondents. However, all respondents were similarly concerned about the new technologies, suggesting that millennials see the same potential for negative consequences as older generations but are more optimistic about these technologies in spite of their concerns.
CBT Nuggets breaks out its results by some other interesting factors.
For my money, a robotic Venus flytrap seems pretty concerning. But mostly from a resource allocation standpoint. Isn't there something else our best and brightest should be working on?