The constant is change | MIT Technology Review
But they are also snapshots of the times in which we live. Last year I wrote that I would be happy if we didn’t need to include anything related to covid-19 on this year’s list. In the previous two years, mRNA vaccines, digital contact tracing, covid treatments and variant tracking were on the list, all grim reminders of the severity of the pandemic. But it is precisely this advancement in technologies that has helped us, finally, to push covid-19 back to the point where we can once again live with some sense of normalcy.
While we don’t have any covid-related tech on the list this year, there are other reminders of the monumental challenges we face. There is the ongoing war in Ukraine. Access to abortion has been restricted in many states and banned in several others. We continue to face headwinds as we try to make progress against climate change.
Some of the items on the list, such as the increasing availability of military drones, aren’t exactly good news. One of the most interesting discussions we had while putting together this year’s list was whether or not we should include technologies that are designed, literally, to kill people. But ultimately, inclusion isn’t so much an endorsement as it is a statement about a technology’s potential impact.
There are also real reasons for optimism related to other things we see happening. We are making strides to help humans live longer, healthier lives through tools like CRISPR and the ability to produce organs on demand. We are also improving battery recycling and making electric vehicles truly practical alternatives to gasoline-powered cars.
Finally, some of my favorite things on the list this year are those that inspire a sense of awe and wonder at the extent of human achievement. The James Webb Space Telescope, for example, was a no-brainer to include. The same goes for image-generating AI, which in the years to come will have implications for all sorts of applications beyond just creating art. And while the ability to analyze ancient DNA has the potential to unlock many new scientific discoveries, it’s also pretty cool. Neanderthal DNA!
Hope you enjoy this issue. And in the weeks to come, we’ll have even more to discover on technologyreview.com, including a poll where you can vote on what the 11th breakthrough technology should be.
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