The World Economic Forum (WEF), in conjunction with Frontiers, today unveiled its annual list of the ten breakthrough technologies poised to leave a significant imprint on the world over the next five years. Revealed were flexible batteries, generative AI, and sustainable aviation fuel among other transformative technologies.
These innovative advancements, chosen by an expert panel, promise major societal and economic benefits, disruptive potential, attractiveness to investors and researchers, and are expected to achieve considerable scale within half a decade.
Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum and Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, emphasized the importance of harnessing these new technologies responsibly. He said, “New technologies have the power to disrupt industries, grow economies, improve lives, and safeguard the planet. We hope that this year’s report serves as a powerful tool for business leaders and policy-makers.”
The report, now in its second decade, has successfully spotlighted several groundbreaking technologies over the years, including genomic vaccines and AI-led molecular design. This year’s report goes a step further by providing a qualitative assessment of each technology’s impact on people, planet, prosperity, industry, and equity. In addition, it introduces a series of Transformation Maps on the Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform to provide deeper insights.
Kamila Markram, Co-founder and CEO of Frontiers, highlighted the report’s importance in our rapidly evolving society. “We find ourselves at a crucial juncture, where knowledge is our guiding light. This comprehensive report serves a vital purpose in unveiling ground-breaking scientific breakthroughs,” she said.
Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2023:
Flexible Batteries: Thin, flexible batteries constructed of lightweight materials are poised to replace traditional rigid batteries. These can be bent, twisted, and stretched, making them ideal for applications in medical wearables, biomedical sensors, flexible displays, and smartwatches.
Generative Artificial Intelligence: Generative AI can create new and original content by learning from extensive datasets. This technology, which gained attention with the public release of ChatGPT in 2022, promises to disrupt industries like education and research.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel: This fuel, derived from biological and non-biological sources, is positioned to decarbonize the aviation industry which is responsible for 2%-3% of global CO2 emissions.
Designer Phages: With advanced genetic engineering tools, scientists can now reprogram phages to infect bacteria of their choosing, offering the potential to treat microbiome-associated diseases or eliminate dangerous bacteria in food supply chains.
Metaverse for Mental Health: In response to the increasing mental health crisis, shared virtual spaces are being developed to address mental health issues, with video games and VR-enabled meditation leading the charge.
Wearable Plant Sensors: These small, non-invasive devices can be attached to plants to monitor temperature, humidity, moisture, and nutrient levels continuously, promising to revolutionize large-scale farming.
Spatial Omics: By combining advanced imaging techniques with DNA sequencing specificity, spatial omics reveal biological processes at the molecular level inside cells, accelerating our understanding of biology and disease treatment.
Flexible Neural Electronics: Breakthroughs in flexible electronics offer less invasive and more comfortable brain-machine interfaces, which have the potential to treat conditions like epilepsy, depression, or paralysis.
Sustainable Computing: As data centers consume about 1% of global electricity, sustainable computing technologies such as liquid cooling systems, AI analytics, and modular data centers could enable net zero-energy data centers.
AI-Facilitated Healthcare: AI has the potential to transform the healthcare system entirely by monitoring pandemic outbreaks, reducing hospital wait times through optimized resource allocation, and more.