Editorial: Ten Opportunities
Whether for comic relief or political satire, we see "top 10" lists everywhere. The typical list merits no more than a laugh or a groan, if that. But every now and again, an institution with genuine credentials assembles a list that means something.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's magazine of innovation, Technology Review, identified 10 technologies that promise to change our lives. These technologies merit your close attention for another reason; they point clearly to new opportunities-and challenges-for the manufacturing community.
Universal translation is driven by global business and security needs. The goal is software that gleans meaning from phrases in one language and coneveys that meaning in any other language, enabling people from different cultures to communicate.
Synthetic biology programs cells as if they were computers, assembling genes into networks that direct cells to perform biological tasks. Already beyond proof of concept, the goals include advanced biosensing and entire organs for transplantation.
Nanowires, roughly half a microinch in diameter, are key to successful nanodevices. Startup companies are betting that nanowires will be essential to applications ranging from sensors for drug discovery and medical diagnosis to flat panel displays.
Bayesian machine learning derives from a once obscure branch of probability theory called Bayesian statistics. Programs based on these theories tackle questions related to how genes function; some are already on the market.
T-rays operate in the deep infrared region and penetrate many materials without the medical risk of X-rays. This terahertz radiation promises to transform fields like medical imaging and airport security.
Distributed storage will make digital files easier to maintain and access while eliminating the damage from power failures and hard drive crashes. Such systems could dramatically enhance productivity.
RNA interference therapy seeks a way to turn off specific genes at will. The objective is to address the fact that many diseases are triggered either by our own errant genes or by those of invading organisms. Every major drug company is currently working on RNA interference drugs.
Power grid control is aimed at detecting and squelching impending blackouts by tracking the flow of electric power, identifying disturbances, and taking immediate action. Systems are ready for installation today.
Microfluidic optical fibers may be the key to a much faster Internet. Tiny droplets of fluid inside fiber optic channels could speed transmission and improve reliability. Prototype devices are already being tested.
Personal genomics is aimed at achieving the dream of personalized medicine with a simple blood test that allows doctors to determine the best course of treatment for a patient, based on the DNA makeup in that person's genome.
Delivering on the promises and earning a profit will challenge manufacturers for decades. Visit www.technologyreview.com to learn more, and be one of those that takes advantage of the opportunities they offer.