These are some of the data that emerge from the last big report on how Spaniards perceive the benefits and risks of science and technology. According to this survey, in which the opinion of 6,054 citizens is collected, the irruption of technological tools such as artificial intelligence and robots is one of the factors that most polarizes the population. At this time, for example, 60% of citizens believe that they will be able to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by this digital world compared to 40% who affirm that they do not feel qualified to face these technological challenges.
One of the factors that most influences this perception is the educational level of citizens. The more academically educated people and those with incomes above the average are the ones that generally perceive more benefits than risks in the irruption of new technological tools. The less educated, on the other hand, they fear more the irruption of artificial intelligence and robots in their daily life, in their jobs and, in general, in their life trajectory.
The opinion of Spaniards on the technological ‘boom’ is just one of the many issues addressed by this latest macro-report from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Ministry of Science and Innovation. These are some of the most outstanding conclusions of the last Survey of Social Perception of Science and Technology.
Interest in science gains weight
One of the great joys of this latest survey is the increase in citizen interest in science and technology. Especially after a few years in which, according to previous studies, a decrease in the subject had been observed. In these moments, the 47.2% of Spaniards say they are interested in science and technology. The surroundings that arouse the most interest are food (62.6%), medicine and health (57.2%) and the environment and ecology (49.4%). The sector in which interest has arisen the most is among women and people over 64 years of age. The survey also indicates an increase in citizen participation in science outreach activities and visits to science museums.
basic scientific knowledge
Most of the Spanish are able to answer basic questions of scientific culture. For example, 89.2% know that the Earth revolves around the Sun (and not vice versa), 79.6% know that humans have never lived with dinosaurs, and 82.5% know that eating a genetically modified fruit it does not change the genes of the people who eat it. One of the aspects that generates the most confusion is the use of antibiotics since, according to this survey, only 67.9% know that they are prescribed to cure infections caused by bacteria (and not by viruses). The correct answers drop even more when talking about the application of the number pi: only 28% know what it is used for.
The scientific topics that generate more reluctance among the Spanish population are the nuclear energy (which only 35% of citizens consider to have more benefits than risks), the cultivation of genetically modified plants (which has the support of 29.6%) and the ‘fracking (A practice used to increase the extraction of gas or oil from the subsoil and which, today, only has the favor of 15.7% of the population). Animal experimentation for medical fines adds up to 40% of the support.
Deniers are in the minority
After a few years especially marked by the rise of denialism on social networks, everything points to the fact that the anti-scientific discourse has not penetrated among the Spanish. This latest survey suggests that less than 10% of citizens deny or completely question the scientific evidence. The only exception that, despite having been refuted thousands of times, persists in the collective imagination has to do with human footprints on the Moon: 17.6% of Spaniards believe that man has never set foot on the lunar soil.