On the list's 20th anniversary, says the publication, three things are true: It is eclectic; some of the innovations are clearly making an impact now but some have yet to do so; and many of them have the potential to do harm as well as good.
"The 10 Breakthrough Technologies list is an annual symbol of technological progress," says Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief of MIT Technology Review. "But on this, the list's 20th anniversary, we're also taking a hard look at the question of what 'progress' really means, and whether our society is valuing the right things when it measures progress."
This year's list ranges from AI language models to batteries to digital contract tracing:
- Messenger RNA vaccines: A technology never before used in vaccine therapeutics could transform medicine far beyond Covid-19.
- GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3): The latest natural-language computer models are a big step toward AI that can understand and interact with the human world.
- Data trusts: Companies and governments have mishandled personal data time and again. New technology could help people reclaim their agency over it.
- Lithium-metal batteries: A new battery that could finally make electric cars as convenient and cheap as fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.
- Digital contact tracing: Spurred by a wave of development and cooperation, new tools promise to help slow the coronavirus's spread.
- Hyper-accurate positioning: GPS with centimeter- or millimeter-level accuracy could open up entire new industries.
- Remote everything: Covid-19 transformed the way we live, work, and play. Which of those changes will last?
- Multi-skilled AI: AI that can sense and speak will be much better at navigating new challenges and working alongside people.
- TikTok recommendation algorithms: This app's algorithms, which flipped the script on who can get famous online, were the secret ingredient that put it ahead of rivals.
- Green hydrogen: If made using renewable power, hydrogen could provide a clean and carbon-neutral source of energy and replace the natural gas, diesel, and gasoline used in ships, trucks, buses, and cars.
For more, see 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021
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