Technologies solve our problems and make our lives easier. MIT Technology Review compiled two annual lists of technologies of the past year – one list for breakthroughs and one for solutions that didn’t go well.
Editors selected 10 technologies that are already changing our lives or will change in a few years. Among the most important technologies of 2021 they pointed out:
1. Messenger RNA vaccines – a technology never before used in therapeutics, and it could transform medicine, leading to vaccines against various infectious diseases, including malaria. Messenger RNA also holds great promise as the basis for cheap gene fixes to sickle-cell disease and HIV.
2. Lithium-metal batteries – according to early test results, the battery could boost the range of an EV by 80% and can be rapidly recharged. The battery is still just a prototype that’s much smaller than the one needed for a car.
3. Hyper-accurate positioning – new hyper-accurate positioning technologies have accuracies within a few centimeters or millimeters. That’s opening up new possibilities, from landslide warnings to delivery robots and self-driving cars that can safely navigate streets.
4. Multi-skilled AI – One promising approach to improving the skills of AI is to expand its senses; currently AI with computer vision or audio recognition can sense things but cannot “talk” about what it sees and hears using natural-language algorithms. But what if you combined these abilities in a single AI system?
Read more about breakthrough technologies at the MIT Technology Review website
Space tourism means a few minutes spent experiencing weightlessness and viewing the curvature of the Earth. It doesn’t seem to be a good reason for space travel. It could leave humanity footing an ever-larger carbon pollution bill. It also reflects the increasingly unsustainable levels of inequality and concentration of power, which, coupled with the climate crisis, will lock in suffering for billions.
Beauty apps are available on Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta’s Instagram—and millions are using them. But they are simply a mass experiment on girls and young women. For some young women, beauty filters enforce false images they can’t live up to. The message kids are getting is not “Be yourself.” People feel bad when they use it, but they can’t stop. Beauty filters that make people look good but feel unhappy are a troubling start for the metaverse.
Read more: The worst technology of 2021