Over the last decade, significant technology advancements have altered the way we live, work, and connect with one another.
Many of these advancements, however, took place behind closed doors in research facilities and private firms, or they got so interwoven in our everyday lives that they remained unreported.
An examination of upcoming technologies
Every year, experts gathered by the World Economic Forum and Scientific American make predictions about upcoming technologies that will have significant social, economic, and environmental consequences throughout the world.
While some of these technologies have propelled themselves into the public consciousness and have become completely incorporated into our lives, others have remained stifled.
In future, with the right mix of materials, roads will not only be able to fix themselves, they’ll be able to communicate with robots to help mend them, clean the air around them, ease flooding - and “live a long and healthy life”.
Self-healing asphalt for roads and paint for cars are becoming a reality, self-healing concrete is a slightly more complex matter, in part due to the standards required in the construction industry.
Systems metabolic engineering
Systems metabolic engineering (SysME) is a more sustainable approach to producing chemicals needed for fuels and medicine.
Microorganisms, including bacteria, are genetically engineered to overproduce chemicals like ethanol as part of their metabolic process as they ferment, ‘feeding on’ renewable organic resources, in a safe, sealed environment.
Body adapted wearable electronics
Fast-forward seven years and smartwatches and health trackers are ubiquitous - while there is even wearable underwear that can monitor your heart rate, showing diagnostic potential that brings healthcare firmly into the home.
We spend billions of dollars every year on drugs or treatments that don’t work. Personalized medicine stands to correct this. Not only are we going to improve [patient] outcomes, but we can cut costs on drugs and treatments that aren’t going to benefit an individual.
Genomic vaccines – vaccines made from DNA or RNA that encode desired proteins – have been in development for many years but saw unexpected success in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, we identified that droid friends and robot assistants would increasingly become part of everyday life, looking after the elderly and educating children - and the pandemic has accelerated this trend due to the need to maintain a social distance.
(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in We Forum. The original article can be found at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/10/top-emerging-technologies-10-years/)