Microsoft (MSFT) founder Bill Gates is no stranger to identifying big structural changes. The billionaire business magnate correctly predicted that home computers, desktop operating systems, and the internet would become a big part of our everyday lives. So it made a lot of sense when MIT Technology Review invited Gates to compile its annual list of breakthrough technologies in 2019. It was the first time the list was ever curated by a guest editor.
"Bill's list reflects his belief that we're approaching a tipping point in humanity's technological development - from technologies that mostly make life longer to those that mostly make it better. His choices highlight some of what he considers the most important challenges and opportunities of our time," said Gideon Lichfield, Editor-in-Chief of MIT Technology Review, in a press release.
Read on to find out more about the technologies that made Gates' top 10 list. Each company is ranked in order as they appeared in the MIT Technology Review.
- Bill Gates curated the MIT Technology Review's list of breakthrough technologies in 2019.
- Robotics and automation tools, new-wave nuclear power, and special blood tests to predict premature births made Gates' top three technologies.
- Artificial intelligence assistants like Alexa and Siri rounded out the top 10 list.
Robotics and automation tools have been popping up in factories across the world, but still operate in carefully controlled environments because they are "clumsy and inflexible." Robot dexterity is designed to iron out those issues. By building mechanical devices such as robotic hands and applying artificial intelligence (AI) software, these machines should be better equipped to deal with unfamiliar devices and environments in the future.
New-Wave Nuclear Power
Fusion is being billed as the favored future power source because its reactors can’t meltdown and it doesn’t create high levels of waste like conventional nuclear energy. New designs, including generation IV fission reactors, small modular reactors, and fusion reactors, are getting closer to a breakthrough and promise to reduce carbon emissions and make power sources safer and cheaper.
Among his health care choices, Gates threw his support behind a new blood test that can identify the likelihood of a baby being born prematurely. This breakthrough could potentially save the lives of many children.
Gut Probe in a Pill
Swallowable capsules are able to project images inside the human digestive system and even perform biopsies. The devices, which can also be used to treat infants and children, should help to prevent costly diseases such as environmental enteric dysfunction from spreading.
Customized Cancer Vaccines
There's a treatment in the works to kill off tumor cells using the body’s own immune system. Scientists are reportedly on the cusp of commercializing the vaccine, and, if successful, could prevent many people from dying from cancer.
The 2019 issue was the first time MIT Technology Review had a guest editor who curated the list.
The Cow-Free Burger
Lab-grown and plant-based alternatives are said to create the nutritional value of meat without destroying the environment. As the population grows and there are more mouths to feed, scientists are working hard to find an affordable solution that reduces the globe’s reliance on the polluting meat industry. Gates has invested in a company that grows animal tissue from stem cells called Memphis Meats.
Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Technology that aims to trap carbon before it enters the atmosphere is now steadily becoming available at a reasonable price. Experts reckon carbon capture and storage tools can slash CO2 emissions from power stations by up to 90%. Gates and two oil and gas companies, Occidental Petroleum (OXY) and Chevron (OXY), have invested in Canada's Carbon Engineering.
Wrist-Worn Electrocardiogram (ECG) Monitors
Easing regulation and technological breakthroughs mean it is now possible for people to monitor their hearts with wearable devices. Apple (AAPL) is one company that has already received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop an ECG feature on its watches.
Sanitation Without Sewers
Around 2.3 billion people don’t have access to good sanitation, according to MIT Technology Review, causing potentially deadly bacteria, viruses, and parasites to spread. Energy-efficient toilets that operate without a sewer system and deal with waste on the spot could help to fix this issue.
Smooth-talking AI Assistants
AI assistants, such as Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa and Apple's Siri, are still incapable of simplifying our lives, according to MIT Technology Review. That's because they recognize only a few directives and are easily confused. Recent advancements that capture semantic relationships between words are being developed to make machines more capable of understanding language and become more autonomous.