Top Ten Lists | Top Rated
Year-after-year since 2001, the MIT Technology Review predicts the breakthrough technologies for the upcoming year. By their definition, a ‘breakthrough technology’ is one that’s proposed to have a massive impact on life in the near future.
The top ten technologies that make up this list share certain common characteristics. Over the last year, top-technology journalists have been concentrating on the advancements in these technologies over the others. Each technology is fundamentally new and is predicted to have a long-term impact on society.
Artificial embryos, an ethical practice or not? 3D metal printing, redefining mass-production possibilities; AI cloud services & GAN, opening the door for massive AI implementation; Zero-Carbon Natural Gas, a reinvented energy source; Polygenic risk score, scientific astrology?
None of the technologies on this list get the tag of ‘best technology in the world’. Each technology is special and unique to its own field of application. The list of technologies is given below:
- 3D Metal Printing
In 2017, the first 3D printers capable of metal printing were put on sale. Until then, 3D printers could only mold plastic into useful objects. Over the past decade, 3D printing has become a much quicker and less expensive production process. 3D metal printing has the capacity to produce stronger and lighter parts which would otherwise not be possible. Furthermore, it also gives us more control over the structure of the metal giving one the opportunity to mold it precisely to one’s requirements. Potentially; 3D metal printing can change the way companies manufacture their products.
- Artificial Embryos
When a team of researchers in the UK created embryos using only the stem cells, fiction suddenly turned into fact. Although the experiment was done on a mouse, there was no use of eggs or sperm to recreate life; just the stem cells. The other name for this process is ectogenesis and it’s literally, deemed to be a word that’s primarily found in science fiction. While the mouse experiment was a breakthrough in the field of ectogenesis, creating an artificial human embryo is still unheard of. Artificial human embryos can be of great importance to scientists for research. However, a major roadblock to its development is the stress it imposes on ethics.
- Sensing City
Around the world, governments are trying to come up with a smart-city solution to cater to their problem. However, for one reason or another, most of these schemes have failed to reach its objectives. The scene in Toronto, though is different. The project in Toronto is using an extensive network of sensors to assist the planners in decision-making. While in Toronto, the plan is to make robots do the menial job, that may not be the case with every sensing city. The concept of smart cities is on the rise because of the potential it has to quash multiple problems at once. But till now, the execution has been poor. Will 2018 account for a change in this trend? One can only wait and see.
- AI For All
AI is a popular technology, no doubt. However, until recently, only the big companies were able to benefit from it. AI implementation was difficult and at the same time, the cost of using the technology itself was very high. But not anymore. AI has undergone a massive change in the growth of AI cloud services. On account of the growth of AI cloud services, one can expect to see AI applications across different industries, not just limited to the technology industry. The most promising applications could be seen across the medical industry, manufacturing industry and energy industry.
- Generative Adversarial Networks
Until now, one of the cons of machine learning tools is that they are devoid of any imagination and thus, are unable to create on their own. GAN’s or dueling neural networks could be the solution to this problem. The GAN approach exploits two neural networks. One’s known as a generator while the other is known as a discriminator. The applications of GAN are astounding. So far, it has been effectively used to create realistic sounding speech and genuine-fake imagery. Although GAN is not yet perfect, its development has been a massive contribution to the field of AI.
- Babel Fish Earbuds
The Babel Fish Earbuds are straight out of a science-fiction book. The credit for its ideation goes to Douglas Adams but the implementation credit goes to Google. These earbuds work in tandem with the Google Pixel phones and the Google Translate app to facilitate the real-time translation of speech. The way it works is simple. One person is given the microphone to speak into. While the other person is wearing the earbuds. The translation process is seamless, however, the design of these earbuds aren’t.
- Zero-Carbon Natural Gas
In today’s world, the word ‘sustainability’ holds great importance. Natural gas is one of the major sources of electricity. But, when natural gas is used to generate electricity it exerts a negative impact on the country’s carbon footprint. CO2 emissions, resultant of the process have a detrimental impact on the environment. Thus, the breakthrough technology that’s being tested in the USA to produce zero-carbon natural gas is of vital importance. If successful, it reduces the pressure on nuclear and renewable energy sources to meet future demands. It also promises to reduce the cost of generating electricity using natural gas.
- Perfect Online Privacy
The recent Facebook scandal has suddenly made online privacy an even more sensitive issue. Perfecting online privacy is an ardent task. But, there’s a new protocol on the rise that attempts to do so. It’s called the zero-knowledge proof protocol. This protocol allows for online interactions without revealing the important data. When this technology grows; there’s huge potential for it in the banking sector, with cryptocurrencies in particular.
- Genetic Fortune-Telling
The study of genetics has found that most of the traits that a person possesses are on account of not just a few genes but a number of genes acting together. Scientists have come up with a scoring system called “polygenic risk scores” that assess these genetic factors and predict one’s future by just looking at the DNA. By prediction, one means that the reports so generated will contain information regarding the possibilities of diseases that you can encounter in life and of certain behavioral characteristics that will develop with time. Expect such reports to be handed over to parents at the time of the birth of a child. But again, ethics come into question.
- Materials’ Quantum Leap
Computing power has grown over the decades and there’s no sign that it’s going to stop anytime in the future. With greater computing power, the applications of computing machines are changing. In 2018, one possible new application of computation: developing precisely designed molecules. In fact, one can already see its footprints in the medical and energy industry. Machines with greater qubits, better algorithms: that’s the secret behind the next quantum leap.