SAN FRANCISCO: American consumers are generally excited about the future potential of new technologies, such as super-fast 5G communications, but anxieties remain about their possible impact on social interaction and behaviour over the next 50 years.

While most consumers rely heavily on technology to stay in touch with friends and family (53%), at least 56% fear that people will develop an overdependence on technology and end up spending less time interacting with each other in the future.

That is one of the key findings from the “Next 50” Study of 1,000 US consumers, including 102 described as “tech elites”, which was conducted by tech giant Intel and research firm PSB to examine perceptions about the future of technology over the next half century.

The research, which coincides with Intel’s 50th anniversary, found that 61% of US consumers are somewhat or very excited about the potential of 5G communications.

And that millennials and parents, in particular, are excited about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to help them in their daily lives. Specifically, about half (51%) of parents expect AI to increase their quality of life by enhancing and automating everyday tasks.

Parents are also more excited than childless adults about AI’s potential to assist with human tasks (46% versus 39%) and to predict their needs (42% versus 30%).

Overall, consumers remain most excited about new technologies that are already familiar to them and the survey revealed that 87% expect to rely most on smartphones in the future.

Consumers also rank PCs (84%) and smart home technology (84%) among the most important technologies over the next 50 years.

However, the survey also revealed unease about where all this is heading, with 40% of respondents fearing that new technologies will introduce as many new problems as solutions, while 37% are concerned that people may end up isolated from one another.

As reported by CNET, if these survey results seem contradictory – that is because they are.

“This is certainly the first study I’ve seen in the years that we’ve done these at Intel where ambivalence and anxieties about the future are on a par with excitement,” said Genevieve Bell, a professor at the Australian National University and a senior fellow at Intel, in an interview.

“We rely on next-generation technologies to connect us to people and to do a whole lot of work,” she added. “The flip side is that we do have this interesting ambivalence about how do we feel about the fact that people have always got a phone in their hands.”

Sourced from Intel, CNET; additional content by WARC staff