Where can humanity place its trust?

The three areas we consider to be of the greatest importance for the future of humanity are the development of medical science, the use of renewable energy sources and the availability of water fit for human consumption – says a survey conducted by Forsense.

According to the survey conducted by Forsense in February 2016, the majority is pessimistic about the quality of life of future generations and the future of humanity as a whole. One in two respondents believe that the quality of life of future generations will deteriorate, and only a third expect improvement. As previous analyses have already shown, many people are concerned about the impact of climate change, mass migration, the lack of water fit for human consumption, natural disasters and unpredictable conflicts engendered by people.

Given that pessimism about the future, the question about the directions of technical progress and scientific research that people accept to generate solutions for humanity is particularly interesting: what are the areas that respondents consider to be the most important for the future of mankind? The choices that were offered fell into three main categories according to the primary focus of the developments undertaken. Almost everyone mentioned at least one of the directions of development focussed on people’s health and healthy lifestyles, indeed, one in ten respondents only mentioned items in that area, and another 40 percent selected most of their choices from that category.

Among the 12 options, the majority of respondents clearly placed the development of medical science and medical technologies in first place: the item ranked highest among first choices as well as overall in the survey, with a 60% frequency of mention. Also in the ’health’ category, many people, 45 percent of respondents mentioned making safe drinking water available to everyone, while the rest of the items in the category, i.e. the creation of healthy nutritional choices for everyone and finally gene technology, genetic research, which is considerably more abstract and hence of less perceived importance, were mentioned at lower frequencies.

The second category consisted of items associated with the environment and environmental sustainability. News and other information about those topics appear increasingly often in the media, the popular science programmes on television as well as websites frequented by many people deal with those issues on daily basis. News and information associated with renewable resources, sustainable economic development, selective waste collection or energy-efficient transport are part of the curriculum for younger people, while older generations encounter those issues in their everyday experience. Therefore it is not surprising that almost 80 percent of respondents chose at least one of the items in this category.

A strikingly low proportion of respondents chose those among the 12 items offered whose results and practical application is likely to have a significant effect on their everyday lives in the near and more distant future. That third category included the development of IT and telecommunications technologies, which are reshaping our lives in front of our very eyes, and which have a definitive effect not only at the level of individuals but also through the more efficient coordination and organisation of social and economic networks, or the exploration of space, which may open new vistas for humanity through accessing resources and potentially habitats available in space. What’s more, the development of robotics and artificial intelligence, which also generate spectacular results almost every day received the lowest number of ’votes’. Only slightly more than a quarter of all respondents mentioned any of the items in that third category, which was clearly the result of the fact that the results in those areas are more abstract and as yet they have little impact on everyday lives and livelihoods.

Naturally, the socio-demographic background of the respondents also has an impact on the results, so certain groups chose areas related to healthy living in much higher proportions, while others attributed greater importance to technological innovations and developments. Gender and age are particularly predictive: areas with a direct impact on human life were chosen by a much higher proportion of women and older people. The proportion of those that believe human health and healthy living conditions to be important clearly increases with age. That is certainly related to the fact that although we asked questions about humanity as a whole, our respondents chose their answers on the basis of their own preferences and life experience, so women, who are more aware of health issues, and older people, who have more frequent contacts with the healthcare system, tended to opt for the development of medical science in greater numbers. The correspondence is observable not only in relation to the development of medicine but also with the availability of drinking water and that of healthy nutrition to all as well: women and older people tended to choose those in greater proportions, too. In contrast, men and young people, who are more at home in the world of technology, selected technological development more frequently. Along with the use of renewable energy and the importance of energy-efficient transport, men and those under 35 also placed greater emphasis on the development of telecommunications and IT as well as other new technologies more removed from everyday life.