Read This Article Again in 2064

Here's what Americans think life will be like in 50 years.
A lab-grown beef burger cultured from cattle stem cells. (Reuters)

For most daydreamers, predicting the future is a business of missing more than you hit.

For example, we still haven't eliminated childbirth by inventing designer babies grown in artificial wombs, a prediction the science editor of LIFE magazine made 50 years ago. 

But that same editor surmised we'd be able to grow complete human organs from cell tissue in laboratories, and most Americans now agree that this sounds like something that will happen. Eighty-one percent of those polled believe organs will be developed in petri dishes by 2064. (Hey, why not, scientists are already working on lab-grown ears and noses.)

That's according to a new Pew Research Center study that asked Americans for their feelings and predictions about the next 50 years of science.

But Americans' optimism was not evenly distributed. If they were confident in the biomedical future, they were pessimistic about space. Only a third of us now believe that we'll have colonized another planet by 2064. Here are nine other predictions Americans made.

Computers will be able to create art that is indistinguishable from that produced by humans. Just over half of respondents believe that within 50 years computers will harness the creative power to compose original symphonies, write great novels, and otherwise challenge the idea that art is what makes us human.

Scientists still won't know how to teleport objects. The majority of those surveyed remained skeptical about teleportation technology, while nearly 40 percent of those polled said they believed it would be developed in the next 50 years. 

We won't be able to control the weather. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said Mother Nature will still have the reins in 50 years. 

Performance-enhancing brain implants won't be a huge hit. Nearly three-quarters of those polled are not interested in getting a brain implant that could improve memory or otherwise up one's intellectual ante. 

Ditto on meat manufactured in a lab, which is not a menu item of interest to some 80 percent of those polled.

Designer babies will be shunned. Even if scientists figure out a way to alter developing babies' DNA to produce smarter, healthier, more athletic children, we shouldn't do it, according to two-thirds of those polled. 

Robot doctors might ruin everything. Sorry, robots. Most of those polled aren't ready for you to scrub-in just yet. Sixty-five percent of Americans say it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots became primary caregivers. 

Google Glass is going to make life worse. More than half of those surveyed say that it would be a change for the worse if most people begin wearing "implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them." Women, in particular, are apprehensive about this possible future. 

Same goes for the drone-filled skies of the future. Nearly two-thirds of those polled say it would be a change for the worse if commercial and personal drones are permitted to fly through most U.S. airspace.  

The survey revealed that people are mostly optimistic about how tech will change our lives in the long run. But they’re apprehensive about specific technologies that are closer to reality. Besides, predictions about the future usually say more about the present than they do about what's to come. 

So, future selves, how'd we do? 


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Adrienne LaFrance is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Technology Channel. Previously she worked as an investigative reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat, Nieman Journalism Lab, and WBUR. More

Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Gawker, The Awl, and several other publications.

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