A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including artificial leaves that turn CO2 into fuel, and a technique that harvests water from air, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, according to the ‘Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2017’, an annual list published I China recently by the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network and Global Future Councils in collaboration with Scientific American and its board of advisors.
Each technology was chosen for its potential to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet. The experts were also looking for indications that the technologies have reached a level of maturity that would enable widespread take-up in the coming 3-5 years.
“New technologies are redefining industries, blurring traditional boundaries and creating new opportunities on a scale never seen before. Public and private institutions must develop the correct policies, protocols and collaborations to allow such innovation to build a better future, while avoiding the risks that unchecked technological change could pose,” said Murat Sönmez, head of the center for the fourth industrial revolution and member of the managing board of the World Economic Forum.
The top 10 technologies are:
- Noninvasive biopsies for identifying cancer
Ultrasensitive blood tests known as liquid biopsies promise to improve diagnosis and care
- Harvesting clean water from air
New sunlight-powered technologies do not need to be plugged into an electricity grid
- Deep learning for visual tasks
Artificial intelligence now rivals or exceeds the ability of experts in medicine and other fields to interpret what they see
- Liquid fuels from sunshine
Artificial-leaf technology converts carbon dioxide to fuels and more
- The human cell atlas
An international project is set to detail how every cell type in the body functions
- Precision farming
Combining sensors and imaging of every plant with real-time data analytics improves yields
- Affordable catalysts for green vehicles
Reducing the platinum in fuel-cell catalysts could help bring hydrogen-powered vehicles to the mass market
- Genomic vaccines
Vaccines composed of DNA or RNA, instead of protein, should enable rapid development of preventives for infectious diseases
- Sustainable design of communities
Moving beyond a focus on solar roofs for single-family homes, ambitious projects are attempting to join blocks of buildings into single sustainable units
- Quantum computing
It will soon open the door to solving new kinds of problems
“Science is a global enterprise, with an ambition – and ability – to address some of the most pressing problems that the humanity faces,” said Scientific American editor in chief, Mariette DiChristina. “Scientific American, with more than 170 years of authoritative coverage about the progress of science, is delighted to partner with the World Economic Forum on bringing to light the Emerging Technologies of 2017, and how they’ll be shaping our world.”
The 10 technologies were discussed at the Forum’s annual meeting of the new champions 2017, which took place in Dalian, People’s Republic of China, on 27-29 June. They will form the basis of discussions on how to leverage technology to promote inclusive and sustainable growth.
Under the theme Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the meeting convened over 2,000 business leaders, policy-makers and experts from more than 80 countries. Established in 2007 as the foremost global gathering on science, technology and innovation, the it convenes the next generation of fast-growing enterprises shaping the future of business and society, and leaders from major multinationals, government, media, academia and civil society.
The full top 10 list and descriptions can be found here.