2014-04-21

Co.Exist

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

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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7 Comments

  • This article is totally disconnected from the reality of business. Most Americans do not want any products for that matter. Most products and services only appeal to a small niche fraction of the population.

    Getting 48% of the population interested in a product is actually huge, not some kind of failure as this article seems to indicate.

  • Daniel Moore

    The first commenter, Yassir Islam, has the right of it.

    People may not want lab-grown meat right now, but if you forced people to pay the true costs of their Angus Beef, they might suddenly change their tune!

    Likewise, as people get more and more used to the external memory provided by their smartphone, they might accept memory enhancements and wearable technology.

  • i'd be interested to compare these results (only about 1000 participants participated) to a significantly larger test group and see how they shake out...and for the record I would skip the lab-grown burger [=

  • Yassir Islam

    I remember back in the early days of cell phone when most friends said they did not want a cell phone as they did not need to be that connected all the time. How many Americans would give up their cell phones now? Lab grown meat will eventually become a necessity. Factory-farmed meat, with its high fossil fuel and water requirements, not to mention pollution to waterways and increasing public health risks, is simply not sustainable. If ag subsides are ever eliminated, and as the cost of lab grown meat comes down, the cheaper meat will win. As for drones in US airspace, I think we should unleash them on a huge scale so Americans are constantly reminded of the drones we unleash in Pakistan that are killing innocent women and children. Maybe Pew should do its survey on drones there.