Global Trends 2020

The tech dimension

As internet usage keeps rising a key value is early adoption, the hunger for the next and newest technology. Globally, 7 in 10 try to keep up with technology (70%), and as many as 9 in 10 online people in India, Peru and Indonesia. Older, more established markets tend to score lower here, with around two-thirds of many European countries trying to keep up. Those associated with this value are also more likely to feel well informed about scientific developments – 56% across all countries overall. However, tradition still matters: while globally 4 in 10 say they are usually among the first of their friends to try out new things and that they prefer innovative over traditional brands (both 39%), half disagree (52% and 47%).

The core tension within this trend is between love and distrust of modern technology – both are present within our trend framework and of similar strength.

Technophilia – a strong enthusiasm for technology – includes agreement that technology generally makes life better. Globally, three-quarters agree this is the case (77%), ranging from 9 in 10 in India, Russia and Indonesia, and two-thirds of those in Saudi Arabia and Japan. Established markets fall into two camps – those whose views are close to the global average (Italy, Great Britain and New Zealand) and those who are less optimistic, such as Denmark (72%) and France (68%). Among the twenty nations Ipsos has measured since 2013, belief in the life-improving power of technology has crept up too, from 73% to 77%.

Globally, two-thirds express a belief in a ‘tech fix’ – 66% agree that we need modern technology because it alone can solve future problems. Age is not a factor here – Gen Z are as likely to agree this is the case as Baby Boomers (67% and 65%) – but we do find men more optimistic than women (70% versus 63%), as well as those in higher income brackets (70% versus 61% for low-income groups). Big cities are the focal point for belief in high technology; 72% of their residents believe in technological fixes, compared to 59% of those in the countryside.

Other core measures related to technophilia show the potential for ‘love’ to tip over into ‘overload’, as 7 in 10 cannot imagine life without the internet. Six in ten say the same about their smartphone, and two-thirds feel they are constantly looking at screens these days.

The other side of this trend is technophobia – the fear of, and pushing back against the pervasive nature of technology. Half of the public agree that technical progress is destroying our lives (52%). We have tracked a significant increase in this belief since 2013. Agreement is somewhat stronger among young people; 53% of Gen Z and Gen X agree, along with 54% of Millennials, compared with 48% of Baby Boomers.

A similar view is that developments in science and technology are too fast: overall more than half agree this is the case (55%). Those in Asian economies – most notably South Korea (64%) and China (63%) – are among the most likely to agree, reflecting the hectic pace of change these societies have witnessed and rapid adoption of technology. Older people are also more likely to agree, with 6 in 10 Baby Boomers feeling unable to keep up (59%). This is also related to feeling that scientists are trying new things without thinking about the consequences, a view held by 57% worldwide.

Another aspect of technophobia is concern about the impact technology is having on our lives and wellbeing: 6 in 10 say technology makes it harder for them to ‘switch off’. This is another concern which has grown over the span of Global Trends, from 52% in 2013 to 60% in 2019. This sense of burnout is led by younger people, with two-thirds of Gen Z struggling to switch off, compared with only half of Baby Boomers (65% versus 49%). Additionally, two-thirds of the global public worry that the internet is making young people’s expectations about sex unrealistic, including 67% of parents.

Finally, the strongest value within this trend – regulate big tech – links to wider anti-establishment and anti-elite sentiment – the urge to control and regulate social media. Worldwide, three-quarters agree that social media companies have too much power (75%), and this view is held uniformly across age groups. A very similar proportion (74%) agree that global social media companies need to be more closely regulated, including 86% of Britons. While questions over the practicalities of online regulation remain, there is clear public demand for government action. We have already seen France and the US arguing over digital taxation – expect more of this in the 2020s.

In Global Trends 2020, we find the value regulate big tech close to data anxiety and data apathy on our Global Values Map (see page 28). Given that by historical standards we are only at the begining of what the internet means – it took 100 years for the implications of printing to become clear – tensions over privacy, data and power will all feature in the 2020s.

The Future of Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people manage their health. It has challenged our medical systems and driven demand for new solutions. However, our data suggests these changes are not new but rather an acceleration of existing trends.