Would You Get a Brain Implant if It Could Make You Smarter?

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Yesterday the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released the findings of their survey on the future of science. 1,001 participants were read a list of scientific innovations that may or may not happen in the next 50 years.

The respondents reported how likely these innovations were to occur, whether they believed such a change was a positive development, and whether they would personally use these new technologies.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

Custom Ordering Organs
Americans are confident that people in need of an organ transplant will have new ones custom made for them in a lab. 22 percent of Americans say that scientists will definitely be able to custom make organs for those in need, 60 percent think it will probably happen.  Only 15 percent of Americans think it will probably or definitely not happen.

Controlling DNA
Americans are not fans of genetic engineering.  66 percent of respondents say that we will be worse off if prospective parents can alter the DNA of their children to produce smarter, healthier, or more athletic offspring. About one-in-four Americans think scientists striving to create perfection by developing the ability to control the DNA of offspring would be a positive change.

Growing Meat
A large percentage of those surveyed are turned off by the thought of test tube meat.  78 percent of Americans would not eat meat that was grown in a lab.  22 percent of Americans reported they were comfortable eating lab grown meat.

Buying Intelligence
The overwhelming majority of Americans would not get brain implants.  About a quarter of Americans would get a brain implant to improve their memory or mental capacity and three quarters would not. If surgeons could insert a brain implant to improve memory or mental capacity 72 percent of those surveyed would not participant and 26 percent would.

Of course, we can’t predict the future, but the answers to this poll are telling about the attitudes we have toward altering nature and producing life or sustenance in a lab.

Source: Pew Research Internet Project, U.S. View of Technology and the Future. Read the research here.

Hillary Schaub (@hillaryschaub) is assistant to the Vice President of Governance Studies  and Director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. She is also associate editor of the TechTank Blog, where this post originally appeared. 

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