Americans Believe Tech Makes Their Lives Better But Society Worse, New Vrge Study Finds

60% Say AI & Automation Will Reduce Job Opportunities

The vast majority of Americans believe that smartphones and internet technology have improved their lives, yet consumers are extremely concerned about tech’s impact on society as a whole – especially in relation to data security, the growing gap between rich and poor, and job opportunities.

Americans do not believe that policymakers are keeping up with the pace of technological change and, by wide majorities, believe that government should do more to regulate the internet and other advanced technologies.

These findings are part of a new survey of 1,040* American consumers released recently by Vrge Strategies.

“Americans have a deeply divided view about technology. We remain in love with the internet, smartphones, and other advanced technologies for our own use, but we’ve got serious concerns about its widescale impact,” said Josh Zecher, partner and co-founder of Vrge Strategies. “This should raise red flags for the technology industry. If companies don’t take steps to rebuild trust with consumers today, regulators will step in tomorrow with solutions that could very well put entire business models at risk.”

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The Love

Americans are very positive about the impact modern technology is having on their daily lives.

  • 81 percent of Americans say that the internet, smartphones and other emerging technologies have made their lives better.
  • 42 percent of Americans feel that consumer technologies and social media have made their relationships with family and friends more impactful. Just 29% said it made them less impactful.

The Loathing

Despite the positive views toward the impact of technology in their lives, Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the effect of new technology on society.

  • 46 percent believe that the internet and social media have had a negative impact on society, while only 36 percent had a positive impact.
  • 38 percent believe technology is making the gap between rich and poor wider, while only 22 percent believe technology is bridging the gap.
  • 60 percent believe artificial intelligence developments will reduce job opportunities.
  • Half of all respondents think that the pace of technological change is too fast, while only six percent think it is too slow.

As the technology industry chases new growth by disrupting highly regulated industries, Americans don’t trust tech companies with sensitive information.

  • 67 percent would not give technology companies highly personal information to reduce your daily commute.
  • 65 percent would not share your medical records or other personal health information to technology companies in order to improve your healthcare.
  • 66 percent would not want to live in a smart city.

Yet, the most concerning data point for technology companies is the growing perception among Americans that the industry doesn’t care about these negative consequences of their technologies.

  • 55 percent of Americans believe that technology companies don’t care about how their products impact society.

Also Read: Study Shows That Marketers See Huge Potential in Artificial Intelligence, but Hindered by Customer Data Challenges

Americans Believe that Tech Needs to Be Regulated

In the past, Americans largely supported a hands-off policy approach to internet and technology companies that would allow them to innovate, flourish, and grow. Now, in the age where five of the top ten most valuable companies in the world are tech firms, Americans believe that policymakers need to take more actions to protect consumers.

  • 72 percent believe policymakers are not keeping up with the pace of technology.
  • 41 percent believe we don’t have enough regulations on new technologies and only 17 percent think we have too much regulation.

“Americans believe that the pace of technological change is moving too fast and policymakers are moving too slow,” said Josh Zecher, partner and co-founder of Vrge Strategies. “This helps explain the legislative and regulatory headwinds tech is seeing in Washington and state capitols around the nation. It’s clear that tech must do a much better job of educating consumers and policymakers about the benefits of their products and services, and how they help our nation as a whole.”

A new report from Vrge explores the potential regulatory flashpoints in six of the largest areas of tech investment from 2017 and how companies in these spaces can do a better job of educating and working with regulators and policymakers.

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