Technology. More a blessing than a curse.
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Technology. More a blessing than a curse.

Since the advent of the internet and the smartphone, if not before, technology has become a pervasive part of our lives. The 2018 Credit Suisse Worry Barometer reveals what people in Switzerland and the United States think about technology and its impacts.

In the latest Credit Suisse Worry Barometer, the opinion research institute gfs.bern asked 2,551 Swiss respondents for their views on the effects of technology. The results were compared with similar data in the United States collected by the Harris Poll.

When it comes to the influence of technology on our lives, the Swiss and Americans have almost identical opinions. Approximately 70 percent of people in both countries feel that technology corrupts interpersonal communications, while almost 50 percent believe that it has a favorable impact on social life. This apparent contradiction may be explained by the fact that although interpersonal contacts are becoming less frequent in certain contexts (shopping, visits to administrative offices), the time we save because of technology ultimately benefits our social lives.

Americans put more trust in the creative potential of technology than the Swiss do, with 68 percent maintaining that technology promotes creativity, compared with just 58 percent of Swiss respondents.

The highest approval rates were in response to the question of whether technology makes society lazy. In the US, 73 percent answered affirmatively, as did 87 percent of the Swiss. Online and mobile services that eliminate the need to go to the bookstore, ticket counter or, increasingly often, even to the doctor, are appreciated because they clearly offer convenience and save time. Self-driving cars are clearly comfortable, as passengers only need to lean back and enjoy the ride. And refrigerators that do their own shopping aren't far behind. At the same time, however, people believe that technology is fueling society's laziness. If you can organize your life from the sofa with just a push of a button, you may see little reason to undertake more strenuous activities.

High overall approval rates

Political scientist Thomas Kurer believes that what the two countries have in common outweighs their differences. "In both the United States and Switzerland, most people have a favorable view of the effects of technology; 79 and 71 percent, respectively, report that technology improves their quality of life. These positive results may come as a surprise, given regular claims in the media that technology kills jobs."

Although the majority of respondents are optimistic about job security, the Swiss data also reveals that Switzerland has become more polarized. A large share of people are "winners," but a minority of roughly 20 percent are losing out with legitimate reasons for worry.

"As polarization increases, calls for solidarity grow louder," says Kurer. "Social welfare agencies are facing increasing pressure to reform, in the interest of preventing the further polarization of society."