Most Americans Do Not Want Google-ish Glasses, Drones, Or Lab-Grown Meat

By Sydney BrownstoneApril 21, 2014

Disruptive technologies are all well and good, but being totally out of touch with what people actually want may not be the best innovation strategy.

If aliens came to planet Earth for a day, but could only explore the confines of a locked, featureless room and Twitter, they might imagine a world in which every person documents his life in data points, drones zip around the airspace, and families argue about Google Glass at the dinner table. Maybe some families do, especially if they live in the Bay Area, but a new Pew Research Center study finds that most Americans aren’t as thrilled about new technologies as Twitter’s unrepresentative sample.

Pew found that 63% of Americans would see personal and commercial drones flying in U.S. airspace as a bad idea. More than half think that Google Glass, implants, or other kinds of heads-up displays that constantly filter information from the world to our senses would be a change for the worse. Only 48% of the population would be interested in riding in a driverless car. Even fewer would be interested in eating lab-grown meat, like the$332,000 in vitro burger supported by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

That doesn’t mean that most Americans are technophobes. On the contrary, 59% answered that they felt technological changes could bring about improvements in people’s lives. More than three-quarters of the sample also believed that lab-grown organs could replace failing ones in humans in the next 50 years. And it’s true that some technologies simply take time to become accepted. The printing press, radio, and electricity were feared by some thinkers at one time, though we don’t know how the majority of the population felt.

The Pew study does show, however, that there are some technologies that the majority of Americans simply don’t dig. Those concerns are probably worth listening to–even if it’s only to incorporate them into the design of these same gadgets.

We’re already seeing that happen with wearable Internet-connected devices, one of the biggest buzz concepts of 2013. While fitness freaks were more excited than ever to strap on a Jawbone Up, one study found that a third of Americans were ditching their wearables within six months. And while big and bigger data has promised better living for years, privacy concerns are not going away. Shaking up the status quo is all well and good, but being totally out of tune with what people actually want may not be the best innovation strategy.

[Image: Google glass via Flickr user Lubomir Panak]

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