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Which future tech matters most? The world-saving kind

Purchasing more big-ticket items in the metaverse? Downloading a foreign language skill directly to your brain?

In an uncertain world, consumers still have wonder and a healthy appetite for technology that makes life easier and the planet healthier. So how is technology inherently helping or hurting humankind? And what’s next?

It depends upon whom, and where, you ask. The Bosch TechCompass 2023 survey provides a pulse check on global sentiment by asking a mix of traditional and provocative questions to 11,000 global consumers in seven countries.

Some of us are about ready to buy a car in the metaverse (43% of global survey respondents). Others are conceptually on board for technology akin to an iOS update for the brain to learn a foreign language (63% of Americans, 72% of global respondents).

Even if you’re not ready to learn your Spanish verb conjugation this way, the survey points to several generally accepted tech worldviews.

The annual survey illustrates how digital transformation remains in the fast-forward setting when it comes to people’s opinions—across continents. The results run the gamut from rankings on technology’s most valuable recent advancements to predictions about how tech game-changers will engineer a better future.

Thinking green

Can technology save the world? Thankfully, most of us seem to think so. Of global respondents, 83% said they agree with the statement that “future technological progress will be key to combating climate change,” up 7 percentage points from a year ago. The survey found a slightly more measured perspective in the U.S., with 77% agreeing that tech will be part of the solution.

The country-by-country differences in sentiment on top tech benefits found Americans equally focused on health and safety as a top benefit (53% and 54%, respectively.) Respondents in China were focused on making life more comfortable (66%) and optimization of the human brain (64%) while those in Brazil ranked “better health” and “comfort ‘highest.

Overall, most respondents believe technology can be a force for good, and provide benefits at the individual and global level. Some believe this means prioritizing solutions to specific initiatives, such as repairing damage from climate change or biotech innovations that will save lives. Among American respondents, 43% believe climate engineering—or large-scale intervention to slow down or reverse the impacts of climate change—is one of the top two benefits of technology.

What’s more, U.S. respondents are philosophically aligned with the notion that immediate gratification can wait if our potential product purchase’s impact to the environment isn’t known; specifically, 63% of U.S. respondents agreed they would hold off on purchasing a major tech advancement if its environmental impact wasn’t clear.

Are companies, which are governed by people, similarly perceived to be committed to sustainability? Many still have some trust-building to do. About 40% of U.S. respondents agreed that companies in their country are serious about sustainability commitments. That’s in line with the global average but U.S. consumers are less sold on corporate intentions than consumers polled in India. (There, 57% believe companies have positive intentions). French respondents, meanwhile, were more skeptical (35%.) 

Country-by-country perceptions

Which advancements will move markets and change our lives in the decades to come? When asked to rank the most influential future tech, Americans leaned into self-driving vehicles and AI while German respondents were focused on hydrogen energy strategy. Those in China and India, meanwhile, were more bullish on the collective impact of A.I. and the multi-sector benefits of 5G.

What’s keeping us up at night related to the global tech sector? It boils down to risk management. Among the highest worries: cyber-attacks, data security breaches, and the overarching fear that too few people hold the power of future tech. In the U.S., it’s cyber-attacks that 63% of respondents named as the top fear.

Mobility turning points?

Perceptions on the future of transportation show gradual worldwide shifts in how consumers envision themselves moving around. Bottom line, we imagine a future where innovative companies will help more of us gain access to autonomous cars and multimodal transport. And we can picture a day where human teleportation is more than a science fiction concept. When innovation is matched with exponentially faster computing power, previously unfathomable advancements can happen.

When asked about mobility, Americans surveyed raised their hands mostly for vehicles, whether steering themselves down the highway or shifting to self-driving options. However, 45% of Germans surveyed said they are open to being beamed, once the technology exists, compared with 23% of those in the U.S. In India, respondents envision a more evenly dispersed transportation mix: train, rail, bike, and vehicles.

Here’s to solving humanity’s thorniest issues—and boldly moving in ways we haven’t even thought of yet! 

Survey methodology

For the survey, people aged 18 and over in seven countries (Brazil, China, Germany, France, India, the U.K., and the U.S.) were polled online on behalf of Robert Bosch GmbH by market researchers Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung mbH (GIM) in September 2022. In Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, 1,000 people were polled per country; in Brazil, China, India, and the U.S., it was 2,000 people each. Those surveyed are representative of their respective countries in terms of region, gender, and age.

Learn more about Bosch’s annual global TechCompass research report, including more country-by-country consumer sentiment findings, at https://www.bosch.com/techcompass