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Forward-Looking Tech: The Promise of the Top 10 Emerging Innovations

As technological innovation accelerates, it becomes increasingly critical that we anticipate the potential societal impacts of emerging technologies. By looking ahead, we can harness these innovations for positive outcomes while mitigating risks.

Reports like the World Economic Forum’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies provide crucial foresight into the technological forces that will shape our collective future.

Imagining the possibilities of emerging tech expands our thinking about how to tackle global challenges like climate change, healthcare access, and economic empowerment. It also sparks ideas for new businesses, inspires scientific discoveries, and influences policy decisions. Most importantly, envisioning the future inspires hope that human ingenuity and technology can create a better world.

To identify the top 10 emerging technologies likely to positively impact people and the planet over the next 3-5 years, the World Economic Forum surveyed over 90 experts across 20 countries.

Technologies were assessed based on four criteria: novelty, applicability, depth and Power

The 2023 report incorporates “impact fingerprints,” a new qualitative assessment of each technology’s projected influence on people, planet, prosperity, industry, and equity.

Expert groups scored these dimensions, providing unique perspectives into the promise and perils of widespread adoption.

dark figures walking through a space of coloured lights.

Here are quick snapshots of the 10 technologies highlighted in this forward-looking report:

Thin, twistable batteries made with lightweight, conductive materials will power wearables, smart fabrics, and medical devices. The global market could grow to $240 million by 2027 and enable healthcare monitoring, e-textiles, and consumer electronics. Challenges in sustainability and recycling.

Systems like ChatGPT can generate novel, high-quality content by learning patterns from huge datasets. Applications in drug design, engineering, and education. AI should boost productivity, creativity and access to knowledge but raise concerns about bias, misinformation and job losses.

Bio-based and synthetic fuels to decarbonize existing aircraft. Could meet 13-15% of jet fuel demand by 2040. 300-400 new plants needed. This could be a major step towards net-zero aviation emissions by 2050. Requires massive scaling, and high costs.

Engineered viruses that infect specific bacteria to modulate microbiomes. Treating infections, enhancing agriculture. Provides a promising alternative to antibiotics but challenges remain around precision targeting.

Virtual shared spaces provide remote therapy, peer support, and access to mental healthcare. Could expand access and reduce stigma but raises ethical concerns around data privacy.

Microsensors inserted into plant leaves enable real-time crop monitoring and early disease detection to increase yields. Could boost global food production and resilience, but expensive, expertise is needed.

Maps biological molecules within tissues in high resolution using sequencing and imaging. Enabling cell atlases. Unlocking life’s mysteries but still technical hurdles to standardization.

Soft, flexible circuits allow safer, stable interactions between electronics and neurons. Enhancing neuroscience and prosthetics. Advancing therapies raises ethical issues around privacy and security.

AI optimization, liquid cooling, renewable energy, and modular infrastructure enable green, net-zero data centres. Tackling tech’s environmental impact but adopting innovations remains challenging.

Using data analytics and machine learning to improve healthcare access, outcomes and pandemic preparedness globally.Saves lives but faces adoption barriers and ethical risks around data privacy.

A mountain crag, with two geometric tents and a person exploring.

The innovations showcased in the Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2023 report highlight the tremendous potential for technology to benefit humanity and the planet. Realising this potential requires responsible development and application guided by shared ethical principles. If harnessed wisely, these technologies could help create a more equitable, sustainable world.

I'll try to explore some of these trends in greater detail in future posts.

Reports like this ignite optimism by demonstrating that the future remains unwritten. The stories we collectively envision and work towards creating will determine the legacy we leave as caretakers of society and the Earth. Our most important responsibility is cultivating imagination to build the best possible future powered by technological innovation.

The ability to creatively envision “what might be” is humanity’s greatest renewable resource. By drawing on this capacity for moral creativity, we can kindle the hope and determination needed to tackle global challenges, catalyse equality and environmental restoration, and maximize technology’s capacity for emancipating human potential.

The future remains open and full of possibilities limited only by the depth of our empathy and the boldness of our vision.


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