When Marty McFly made his way 30 years into the future to show us what 2015 might look like in “Back to the Future: Part II,” self-lacing shoes and hoverboards were as common as flat-screen TVs and 3D laser projections.

While Nike is getting close to mass-producing self-lacing sneaker technology, we aren’t quite there yet. Instead, today’s tech experts are working toward self-driving cars, lab-grown organs, and 3D printed food.

We surveyed 500 Americans about their excitement – and reservations – toward technology that might be on the horizon. From the innovations that could make our lives more convenient to the things that could help us live longer, we gauged what people were most excited to see happen and how long they thought it would take to get there. Continue reading to see what we discovered.

Anticipating the Future of Technology

Regardless of how small portable battery solutions are becoming, there’s always going to be that moment where you could use a little more charge on your electronic devices. Thankfully, even if the idea of WiFi charging sounds crazy, it’s not really that far-fetched. Respondents rated their excitement for WiFi charging higher than any other potential technology examined.

Lab-grown organs and self-driving cars also earned the highest marks for excitement but made people more inclined to express a certain level of concern. There’s no question self-driving cars are making their way onto highways, and human organs grown in labs have the scientific potential to save lives, but people were more concerned about these potential technologies.

Maybe it’s all the movies people have seen about dangerous robots over the years, but robots that can teach each other and swarms of autonomous drones were ranked as the most concerning future tech in the bunch.

The Tech That Gives Us Pause

According to our survey, men and women had varying opinions on the future technology about which they were most concerned.

Except for self-learning computers, women were more inclined than men to express concern related to the tech at hand. Also described as neural networks, researchers have created computers modeled after the human brain and nervous system that learns tasks by analyzing pre-existing data. Perhaps not entirely self-teaching – as they can only learn the tasks that are assigned to them – men still ranked their concern for this concept at about a two out of four on our scale.

For women and men, swarms of autonomous drones were identified as the most concerning concept. While drone tech has been employed in large-scale military operations, the technology has more practical applications as well. You might be able to get purchases from Amazon even quicker in the future – all thanks to drones.

Vertical farming (which allows farms to grow more produce in small spaces by arranging it in vertical apparatuses), WiFi charging, and holograms were ranked as the least concerning technology.

The Tech That Gets Us Going

While men were generally more excited about the future of technology, women told us they felt the future of vertical farming was more intriguing than men. Vertical farming doesn’t just change how much space farmers need to grow their crops, but where produce can be raised. Vertical farming also uses less water than traditional crop farming and produces faster results.

In comparison to women, men were significantly more excited about the future implementations of cryogenic hibernation and a real-life version of the Iron Man suit. While this version of Tony Stark’s space-age outfit isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, it at least proves how far some people are willing to go to feel like a superhero. Cryogenic hibernation (or cryosleep) might not be that far off, either. NASA is currently working on ways to employ cryotechnology to allow space passengers to hibernate for up to 14 days while traveling in space.

Finally, men were the least excited about robotic Venus’ flytraps, while women were most put off by swarms of autonomous drones.

Bridging the Gap

When compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials were the most excited about future technology. Some say that Baby Boomers may be slower to adapt to new technology in part because they don’t understand it, but also because technology in the last two decades has evolved at such a rapid pace.

Millennials expressed being substantially more excited for the future of technology in comparison to the other generations we surveyed. Millennials who grew up with technology aren’t just more comfortable with the idea of tech but also tend to demand it from the businesses and companies they choose to patronize. In response, their enthusiasm has been a major factor for technology providers to improve their products and services.

Ageless Tech Concerns

Regardless of age, swarms of autonomous drones were enough to scare just about everyone polled. While Baby Boomers may have ranked them as the most concerning, Gen Xers and Millennials largely agreed with their assessment.

Millennials said the second most concerning tech was robots that could teach each other, followed by self-learning computers. While robots giving each other lessons on simple tasks won’t happen as quickly as other technology, experts suggest it could happen sometime between 2019 and 2021.

Besides swarms of drones that can think for themselves, the only other tech Gen Xers ranked a two out of four or higher on our scale was the self-driving car. Google, Samsung, and Apple are just a few big names currently testing self-driving car technology.

Except for drones, Baby Boomers were less concerned than Gen Xers about technology examined.

The Top Tech Priorities

Millennials might be more excited about charging their smartphones and tablets over WiFi, but Gen Xers and Baby Boomers had a different agenda when it came to the technology they were the most excited to see come to market: lab-grown organs.  

Today, over 117,000 people across the country are waiting for organ transplants and, on average, 20 people die each day waiting to receive the organ that could have saved their lives. With some combination of 3D printing and stem cell research, scientists have been able to grow everything from bones and tissue to a human ear. Ultimately, scientists hope to create individual organs for their patients, so organ rejection is no longer a concern for transplant patients.

While Millennials also listed self-driving and flying cars among the tech they were the most excited for, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers listed retinal implants, thought-controlled prostheses, and bionic eyes as the tech they were most interested in seeing come to fruition during their lifetime.

The Future Is Upon Us

Participants next rated the possibility of future technology.

Nearly a third didn’t think printable food would ever be possible, even though a company managed to do just that by using edible ingredients instead of traditional plastics in 2014. Of course, whether you’d want to eat printed food is a different question altogether. Almost a third of respondents also said the Iron Man suit would never be possible, although at least one U.K. man is bent on proving them wrong. Early reports in 2017 indicate that the U.S. military is also testing its own version of a so-called Iron Man suit, with the expectation that a fully functional prototype would be ready within the next 18 months.  

However, people were most convinced they’d get to see self-driving cars (currently on the road), vertical farming (happening all around the world), and holograms (Tupac, anyone?).

When It Will Finally Feel Like the Future

We last asked survey respondents to guess when the technology of the future would become the technology of today.  

Even though you might be able to spot a self-driving car on the road today, Millennials didn’t think the technology would fully materialize until 2034. Similarly, Millennials said the hoverboards we may have been promised by 2015 in “Back to the Future: Part II” wouldn’t hit the shelves (or our feet) until 2032.

Things most generations felt were the closest to becoming a reality included devices charging through WiFi (2020, according to Baby Boomers), printable food (2020, according to Gen Xers), and the unanimously feared swarms of drones (2022, according to Baby Boomers).

Technology that was the furthest away? Cryogenic hibernation (2099, according to Gen Xers), a real-life Iron Man suit (2061, according to Millennials), and flying cars (2059, according to Millennials).

Of course, some generations were a little more optimistic. Gen Xers said they expected the Iron Man suit by 2043, and Baby Boomers expected to fly around in cars by 2036.

Keeping Up With the Technology of Today

Keeping up with today’s tech is hard enough without thinking about how much it could change in just a few short years. If the responses we got from our survey are any indication, we could be printing our food within the next three years or having our packages personally delivered to us by autonomous drones just two years after that.

Keeping up with the technology of tomorrow means making sure your teams are trained today. At CBT Nuggets, we provide the training your IT professionals need to stay ahead of the game. With videos they can watch anywhere they want, virtual labs to practice, and a learning community to help them connect with other professionals around the world, we help your IT team conquer anything technology might throw their way. Visit us online at CBTNuggets.com to learn more and start your first week for free.

Methodology

We researched current and future technologies. We then surveyed over 500 Americans about this technology without disclosing any additional information. We examined how concerned or excited they were about these technologies if they became real, and then asked whether they thought they currently existed, didn’t exist yet, or would never exist. Respondents who believed they didn’t exist yet were then asked how far away they believed their inception was. These time frames were calculated using data from people who thought the technology was possible but did not exist yet.

Sources

Fair Use Statement

Want to make sure your readers are prepared for the future of technology? We’d love to see the results of our findings shared on your website for any non-commercial use. We only ask that you ensure a link back to this page so our contributors earn credit for their work.

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