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The Sciences

How America Sees The Future

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJune 22, 2010 8:59 PM

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No, I'm not just talking about the economy. The Pew Organization and Smithsonianteamed up to poll us about where we think technology will take us, and I'm struck by the results:

Large majorities expect that computers will be able to carry on conversations (81% say this definitely or probably will happen) and that there will be a cure for cancer (71%). About two-thirds (66%) say that artificial arms and legs will outperform real limbs while 53% envision ordinary people traveling in space.

At the same time, most say that war, terrorism and environmental catastrophes are at least probable by the year 2050. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) see another world war as definite or probable; 53% say the same about the prospect for a major terrorist attack on the United States involving nuclear weapons. An even higher percentage (72%) anticipates that the world will face a major energy crisis in the next 40 years.

The public is evenly divided over whether the quality of the earth’s environment will improve over the next 40 years; as many say the environment is not likely to improve (50%) as say it is (47%). There continues to be a widespread belief that the earth will get warmer in the future, though the percentage expressing this view has declined by 10 points, from 76% to 66%, since 1999.

Moreover, 60% say the world’s oceans will be less healthy 40 years from now than they are today; just 32% say the oceans will be more healthy.

What do you think of these findings? I can tell you the prediction I'm most confident in--that the world will be warmer.

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