Rage against the machines? Workers reveal their hopes and fears for a cyborg future

Employment & Skills | Surveys | Technology

AI

Nearly half (46.5%) of European adults believe that people should be free to enhance their own body with human augmentation technology, but many harbour concerns about the longer-term societal impacts of such tech.

This is according to a new pan-European study from global cybersecurity expert, Kaspersky.

Human augmentation comes in two forms: it can either required due to health grounds – such as the use of bionic limb – or people can choose to augment themselves, for example, by inserting radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips.

Kaspersky’s wide-reaching study of 6,500 adults across seven European nations finds that just 12% of Europeans would be opposed to working with an augmented person because they feel they have an unfair advantage in the workplace.

However, nearly two in every five (39%) European adults has concerns that human augmentation could lead to either future social inequality or conflict. Overall, nearly half (49%) of Europeans are either “excited” or “optimistic” about a future society that includes both augmented and non-augmented people.

According to Kaspersky’s study, more than half (51%) of Europeans say that they have met someone with an augmentation. When it comes to personal life, nearly half (45%) of Europeans would have no issue dating someone with an augmentation, and 5.5% of Europeans say that they have already dated an augmented person.

More than a third say they have “always been accepting” of augmented people and 17% say that they are more accepting now than they were ten years ago. Half of European men (50%) say that they are either “excited” or “optimistic” about the future shared by both augmented and non-augmented people, compared to 40% of women.

If a family member required augmentation technology on health grounds, people would be most comfortable if a family member had a bionic arm (38%) or leg (37%), with the UK most accepting. When it came to voluntary augmentation, adults in Portugal (56%) and Spain (51%) are the most likely to say that people should do as they choose with their body, with the UK least likely to agree at 36%.

Nearly three in ten (29.5%) Europeans would support a family member who decided to augment themselves, regardless of their choice, with the Portuguese most supportive at 46% and French least supportive at 19%.

Just 16.5% of Europeans view choosing to augment oneself as “weird”, ranging from just eight percent in Portugal to 30% in the UK, while nearly a quarter (24%) view self-augmentation as “brave”.

Just over a quarter (27%) believe that augmented people should have special representation at a governmental level, compared to 41% who oppose the idea.

Marco Preuss, Director of the Global Research & Analysis Team, Europe, for Kaspersky, commented: “While we find broad support and interest in human augmentation across Europe, there are understandable concerns around the implications of human augmentation for society. Governments, industry leaders and augmented people must come together to help shape the future of human augmentation together, so we can ensure that this exciting industry develops in a way that is regulated and safe for everyone.”

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