How do Americans feel about 16 emerging technologies, including AI, VR, crypto, and NFTs?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
April 27, 2022, 12:44 PM GMT+0

A recent YouGov poll asked Americans their opinions on 16 emerging technologies, ranging from cryptocurrency and virtual reality, to lab-grown meat and artificial organs. Most Americans who have heard of each of the 16 technologies are optimistic that it will eventually catch on. Opinions are mixed on whether the technologies will have a positive impact on society and whether the government should invest in them.

Most Americans have heard at least a little about most of the technologies we polled, though few have heard a lot about them. The technologies polled about that Americans are most likely to be aware of are 3D printing, cryptocurrency, self-driving cars, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The three that Americans say they are least aware of are decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), implantable brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), and quantum computing.

Americans who are familiar with each of the technologies we ask about are generally optimistic about the likelihood that it will eventually become widespread. For each of the 16 types of tech, more people who’d heard of it said it was likely to be widely adopted at some point than said it was unlikely to be widely adopted. Compared to the others asked about, the largest share of those familiar with it say that 3D printing will catch on, while the smallest share say non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, will.

If these technologies eventually catch on, will they be beneficial to society? Among people who have heard of each, the highest share of people say the following will be good for society: 3D printing, artificial organs, and quantum computing. Only four technologies were seen as having a negative impact by a larger share of those familiar with it than the share who said the technologies would have a positive impact: NFTs, the metaverse, cryptocurrency, and lab-grown meat.

Which technologies do Americans think the U.S. government should invest in? Quantum computing and artificial organs top the list of tech that people who are familiar with it say are most worthy of investment. A significantly smaller share say it’s important for the U.S. to invest in NFTs, cryptocurrency, personal space travel, and the metaverse.

A summary of responses to the four questions examined above is displayed below:

We also developed a metric that could be used to summarize perceptions of each technology and to rank them in terms of their promise in the eyes of the American public. This summary statistic we developed involved 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. We then multiplied this by the share of people who have heard of the technology.

YouGov’s ranking of the most promising technologies — among the 16 polled about — based on opinions of Americans familiar with them, including their viability, impact, and public support for investment:

  1. 3D printing
  2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
  3. Virtual reality (VR)
  4. Artificial organs
  5. Self-driving cars
  6. Gene editing technology
  7. Cryptocurrency
  8. Augmented reality (AR)
  9. Lab-grown meat
  10. Quantum computing
  11. Personal space travel
  12. Blockchain
  13. Metaverse
  14. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  15. Implantable brain-machine interfaces (BMIs)
  16. Decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on April 20 - 25, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.

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