About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Innovation charity Nesta, commissioned the survey of 2,000 UK residents by Censuswide, to mark its 20th anniversary working to support innovation for the benefit of people in the UK. respondents were asked to pick from a list of major innovations in technology from the 20th and 21st centuries and say which had the most positive and which the most negative impact on society.

While the atomic bomb and social media were clearly thought to have had the most negative impact, the world wide web (22.6%) was voted the technology with the most positive impact followed by the computer (10.4%), refrigerator (10.4%), and mobile phone (10.2%) behind it.

There was a clear age divide in feelings about social media with younger people (18-24 years old) much less likely (25.2%) to say it has had the most negative effect and more likely to say it has had the most positive effect (12.1%) compare those aged 55 and over (347% and 2.6% respectively).

Respondents were also asked which aspects of their lives technology has had positive and negative effects on. They said that technology has improved shopping (66.8% saying it had been positive or very positive), entertainment (67.2%) and knowledge of the world (71.3%) but a negative impact on sleep (49.4% saying negative or very negative), conversation (50%) and time with friends (35.2%).

Younger people (38.9%) are twice as likely as older ones (19%) to say modern technology has had a positive effect on time spent with friends.

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta, said:

"In general the British public are very open to innovation and new technology: there are very few real Luddites out there. But we've seen a marked shift, especially around digital technologies. The public rightly see them as offering both huge gains and huge risks, and they rightly want a say over how technologies like AI, driverless cars and drones come into our lives.

“If they're ignored there'll be backlashes - as happened to nuclear power and GM crops. If they're part of the conversation we should be able to get more of the benefits and fewer of the potential harms."


Survey of 2,000 people in the UK was conducted between 14th and 16th November by Censuswide.

Press contact - Will Hoyles, 07812 362714, [email protected]

Full results broken down by region, gender and age are available on request.

About Nesta

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit www.nesta.org.uk

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

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