5 Game-Changing Technologies for the Next Decade
Outside the AI departments of FAANG, steady progress marches on.
Revolutionary progress is happening right before our eyes, even if it’s not at the forefront of the news cycle. From Big Tech to Big Pharma, popular culture and mass media would have us believe that technology is more likely to be our demise than our savior. Concerns about how technology’s impact on our daily lives are valid, but advancements in technology are enabling a lot more than increased ad engagement on your Facebook feed. Here are some of the breakthrough technologies to watch when you feel like restoring your faith in humanity.
1. Precision Medicine: Bioinformatics and Genomics
With each passing day, the human genome becomes less of an abstraction, and more of a critical component in treating serious ailments. Driven by advancements in computing and medical research methods, heinous genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis are receiving breakthrough therapies. In late 2019, the FDA approved Trikafta, a breakthrough therapy applicable to the estimated 90% of CF population “who have at least one F508del mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene”.
Trikafta is an option for many of the CF population who previously had no viable treatment routes. It is also one of many novel treatments enabled or accelerated by computational methods in medicine like next-generation sequencing (mapping an entire human genome at the molecular level). To those with presently untreatable illnesses, Trikafta and the next generation of medicine is a beacon of hope.
2. Blockchain: Ethereum V2 and the Bitcoin Lightning Network
Okay, you’ve probably already heard of this one. Maybe you’ve even heard a bit too much about how blockchain is going to revolutionize the global economy. If so, you might be surprised to learn about how it has already shaken things up quite a bit. For those who don’t know, blockchains are immutable ledgers of information duplicated across a network of computers. These ledgers can store anything in a way that can’t be tampered with, but the most popular use case is to store digital transaction balances, that’s essentially what Bitcoin is.
As blockchains become more mature, they are also becoming considerably more capable. For comparison, Bitcoin’s cardinal flaw was its inability to scale to the transaction capacity of other electronic payments. Visa, for example, can reportedly handle more than 76000 transactions per second. Bitcoin’s core network could only handle about 7. Recent developments like Bitcoin’s lightning network and Ethereum V2 can handle tens of thousands, on par with mature payment networks.
This could be critical in mainstream cryptocurrency usage. That would be a huge step forward, because runaway inflation is often the hallmark of disastrous authoritarian regimes (like Venezuela in 2020). A reserve cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or an Ethereum subtoken could be a huge step forward toward combating these regimes.
3. Alternative Energy Sources: Nuclear and Thorium
There’s a lot of research going on here, and for good reason. Entire ecosystems are crumbling under the weight of anthropogenic climate change driven by our need for energy to support human life. One of the many promising advancements in alternative energy is Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel to Uranium.
Thorium has many advantages over Uranium when it comes to nuclear power. It produces less waste, is more abundant, and much more difficult to weaponize. These are some of the key concerns used to refute nuclear power as a viable fuel source. With enough upfront investment Thorium-backed nuclear power could be a realistic alternative to fossil fuels and a critical component in reducing geopolitical risks.
4. Telecommunications: 5G and Satellite Internet
You might not notice it, but internet connectivity is getting steadily more available, reliable, and robust. Two critical technologies enabling that progress are 5G cellular service and satellite internet.
5G service, the next generation of cellular internet connectivity, enables higher throughput communication for mobile devices. While that may seem incremental, it could allow mobile carriers to compete with traditional internet service providers. It could also be the critical link enabling long-range, reliable service for remote work. But that’s not just for Zoom meetings, it could equally enable remotely operating freight trucks with the help of AI and driverless vehicle technology.
In addition to the above, satellite internet can deliver reliable, low-latency internet around the globe. With economies of scale, this could deliver internet access to underserved populations and drive global economic equity and progress.
5. Containerization: Hybrid Apps and Virtualization
As computers get more powerful, so too do their applications. Now, it is completely realistic to run most applications on a computer with enough resources to run a modest computer itself. This technique is called containerization, and it enables applications to each run on their own, simulated computers while actually being located on the same machine.
This is a tremendous development in how applications can be isolated for security purposes or built to target a more generic machine. For example, it is possible to simulate a full Windows 95 operating system, right from your browser.
With this trend in computing, anything can pretty much pretend to be its own computer. Operating systems will become much less important, and there may be no practical difference between websites and native apps. A local restaurant could build a template website in 30 minutes and instantly have a competitive iPhone or Android app. While computing may already seem ubiquitous and intuitive, it’s about to become a lot more so — in a good way.
With so much of life depending on technology these days, it can be easy to blame so-called innovation for introducing more ails than it actually cures. While there are a lot of strong arguments to support that idea, it’s important to keep in mind how technology is paving the way for a better future at the same time. I hope this provides some evidence to that end, and maybe even a unit or two of motivation to those seeking a career in technology for its true purpose: making the world a better place.