Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute

Space Telescope Science Institute

The American public expects that the coming half-century will be a period of weighty scientific change, as inventions that were once confined to the realm of science fiction come into common usage.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center in partnership with Smithsonian magazine, asking Americans about a wide range of potential scientific developments: from near-term advances like robotics and bioengineering, to more “futuristic” possibilities like teleportation or space colonization.

According to Aaron Smith, Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center, compared with custom organs and computer produced art, the public has less confidence that the two common science fiction tropes of teleportation and colonization of other planets will come to pass.

Space colonies

Here are a few space-related items, among a wide range of observations noted in the survey:

— Two in five Americans (39%) think that teleportation will be possible within the next 50 years, while slightly fewer — 33% — expect to live in a world in which humans have long-term colonies on other planets.

— Young adults are especially likely to view space colonization as a long-term eventuality: 43% of 18-29 year olds see this happening in the next half-century, compared with about a quarter of those over age 50.

— On the other hand, high-income Americans are pessimistic about the prospects of space colonization: just 20% of those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more think this is a realistic prediction.

Getting from place to place

Those surveyed were asked to describe in their own words the futuristic inventions they themselves would like to own.

The public offered three common themes: 1) travel improvements like flying cars and bikes, or even personal spacecrafts; 2) time travel; and 3) health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases.

Based on their responses, many Americans are looking forward to a future in which getting from place to place is easier, more comfortable, or more adventuresome than it is today.

— A total of 19% of Americans would like to own a travel-related invention of some kind, including: a flying car or flying bike (6%),

— Personal spacecraft (4%),

— Self-driving car (3%),

— Teleportation device (3%),

— Jet pack (1%),

— Hover car or hover board (1%).

Survey details

The survey was conducted February 13-18, 2014 by landline and cell phones among 1,001 adults.

The survey examined a number of potential future developments in the field of science and technology…some just over the horizon, others more speculative in nature.

For more information, go to Pew Research Center, April, 2014, “U.S. Views of Technology and the Future” available at:


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