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10 breakthrough technologies according to a visionary

Can Artificial Intelligence be biased? How close are we to creating a mind reading machine? Are artificial embryos too much interference in the life creation process? These are the questions asked by Jason Pontin – researcher of technologies which can help solve global problems. He even attempts to answer some of them.

Anna Zaleska
O AUTORZE

Anna Zaleska

Editor and human relations coach. At work she focuses on partnership, being in harmony with oneself and antidiscrimination issues. Observer of social transformations, including technological ones, and their impact on the reality and relations.

★ 5 minutes czytania

Tagi: 3D printing

Pontin is an optimist. He believes that new technologies can improve our life conditions, and can solve problems such as the climate crisis, which pose a real threat to the future of the Earth. But he is also being realistic: technology can solve “humanity’s great problems” but under certain conditions, e.g. we must understand the nature of the problem and we must want to solve it as a society (the role of the political leadership can not be overestimated here). 

Jason Pontin discussed breakthrough technologies, many of which are already available or within our reach, this June in Warsaw at the MIT Sloan Management Review Polska conference. 

Artificial Intelligence

The first thing he discussed was artificial intelligence (AI) and the concept of deep learning, which – although useful – has limitations, like the fact that it requires huge collections of data, and the whole process must be supervised. An example of those limitations provided by Pontin really stirs the imagination: even as much as 90 percent efficacy is not enough in the case of autonomous cars. Pontin sees future for AI e.g. in modern sectors (such as biotechnology or energy technologies) and wherever the process can be robotized – from production lines to data collection and processing. 

Quantitative calculations

Jason Pontin estimates that in 2 to 10 years quantum computers – with far higher capabilities than traditional ones – will become widely available for business, while simultaneously their progress will contribute for instance to creating more effective medications or making energy management more efficient, both when it comes to energy generating and distribution.

Artificial embryos

Haven’t we gone too far, creating artificial embryos without the use of egg and sperm cells, using stem cells only? Jason Pontin is not sure of this, but he believes that research conducted on artificial embryos will bring us closer to understanding the complex mechanism of human life, including the function of genes.

Metal printing

This is one of those already available technologies that make a real revolution – an industrial revolution. 3D metal print means that creating metal components will be cheaper, and making parts (and machines) which have been impossible to create will become a reality. We will be able to create customized designs and this translates into changes in the whole supply chain, in manufacturing plants and warehouses. 

Internet of Things in cities

Toronto wants to be the first city to integrate one of its districts with modern technology and use IoT to create a smart city – people and environment friendly. Investors in Toronto are still waiting for a building permit, but Jason Pontin is convinced that more cities will follow.

Privacy online

It’s hard to say whether this is a demand, hope or a technology, however, Jason Pontin points to the fact that IT specialists are trying to develop an encryption tool that will provide so called perfect online privacy. The idea is that people who need to provide some of their private data still can secure their privacy. 

Blockchain technology for industry

Blockchain technology is a scattered data base, information (e.g. about transactions) arranged in blocks which are connected to one another, but do not require the use of a central computer. Currently, the technology is becoming gradually more popular in banking and financial services. In the future it is going to be used in the production industry. 

Machine-brain interface

Scientists have created an optical imaging system, which disperses infrared radiation inside our bodies, creating holograms. In two years at the latest – according to Jason Pontin – it will be possible to use it e.g. for diagnosing cancer or cardiovascular diseases. The visionary is also creating a different scenario: the length of the near infrared light is shorter than the size of even the smallest of neurons, and that means we will be able to view the thoughts of another person. Will – or should we say: when will – we create a mind reading machine?

Carbon dioxide capturing

In 5 to 10 years capturing CO2 from the air will become cheap, meaning it will cost less than $100 per ton, according to Jason Pontin’s estimates. This is where Pontin sees the only real way to overcome the climate crisis.

Microbiota

Microbiota is not just a collection of various species of microorganisms, but an organ playing critical functions in humans, plants and insects. This discovery allows to create medications designed specifically for microbiota, but also to cure metabolic, inflammatory and infectious diseases more effectively. Other advantages of this discovery include e.g. the possibility to increase the amount of agricultural crops or to use insects populations. 

Three best quotes by Jason Pontin:

You promised me Mars colonies. Instead, I got Facebook (TED Talk 2013)

Unlike technologies, science is all good. Learning the principles that rule the world is an imperative, a moral duty (…) But science is only clearly useful when it brings new technologies (WIRED, 2018)

Technology is neither good nor bad. Technology has the power to make good or bad things. It depends on people how they use it (MIT Sloan Management Review Polska, 2019)

Jason Pontin works for Flagship Pioneering, developing business ideas which help solve health, food access and sustainability issues. He cooperates with the governments of several states, NGOs, academias, foundations and industries. He writes about modern technologies for prestigious magazines (The New York Times, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe). For many years (2004 – 2017) he had been editor-in-chief and publisher of “MIT Technology Review”, publishing an annual list of 10 breakthrough technologies. 

Kategorie: top trends

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