Thursday, July 6, 2017

Friday Thinking 7 July 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



For instance, ~98% of bacterial species don’t thrive outside mixed-species colonies.
"Bacteria are not self-sufficient: They’ve co-evolved to depend on each other." They’ve discovered division of labor, specialization, and cooperation.
That specialization is a game-changer. You now need co-workers. If they don’t thrive, you don’t. You’re in a collective extended “survival vehicle” relationship.
In a kind of no-brainer biochemical “social contract,” bacterial colonies, like human communities, have to handle the “common good” (suppressing cheating, free-riding, the “tragedy of the commons,” etc).
For instance, “helper” species that “provide a common good… may come to be shielded from competition by the species that rely on them, as happens with corals” (not protecting common goods can lower your fitness).
Such interdependent survival logic pervades biology (e.g., all “selfish genes,” all trees, all animals).

Here's Why Evolution Can Be "Survival of the Friendliest"

We can think of blockchains as “blue ocean” databases: they escape the “bloody red ocean” of sharks competing in an existing market, opting instead to be in a blue ocean of uncontested market space. Famous blue ocean examples are Wii for video game consoles (compromise raw performance, but have new mode of interaction), or Yellow Tail for wines (ignore the pretentious specs for wine lovers; make wine more accessible to beer lovers).

By traditional database standards, traditional blockchains like Bitcoin are terrible: low throughput, low capacity, high latency, poor query support, and so on. But in blue-ocean thinking, that’s ok, because blockchains introduced three new characteristics: decentralized / shared control, immutable / audit trails, and native assets / exchanges. People inspired by Bitcoin were happy to overlook the traditional database-centric shortcomings, because these new benefits had potential to impact industries and society at large in wholly new ways.

These three new “blockchain” database characteristics are also potentially interesting for AI applications. But most real-world AI works on large volumes of data, such as training on large datasets or high-throughput stream processing. So for applications of blockchain to AI, you need blockchain technology with big-data scalability and querying. Emerging technologies like BigchainDB, and its public network IPDB do exactly that. You no longer need to compromise on the the benefits of traditional big-data databases in order to have the benefits of blockchains.

Blockchains for Artificial Intelligence

In Sweden, they are introducing a beta test of a land property registry for the real estate markets. This is another idea that has been widely discussed. More often, it comes up in emerging markets that have bad property records or an awful lot of corruption. Places like Venezuela, for instance, would be the ideal uses of this. Sweden is maybe the country that needs this the least of any country in the world, but also may be the one that could introduce it with the greatest ease. It would save money in the real estate market and attach more certainty to the ownership of assets. This is a very interesting thing. In 10 years’ time, you may see this in many countries: moving the real estate registries onto blockchains.

….the Bank of England. About a year and a half ago, they put together a team with a lot of academics and part of their research staff. It’s called The Future of Money. They have put out a number of white papers that essentially amount to a design of what this would look like in the U.K.
It gets to an enormous amount of detail about what this would mean for the commercial banking system, for customer payments, and all kinds of externalities, both good and bad—extremely thoughtful treatment of the issue. It’s surprising to come out of a country like the U.K., because they have a very old, conservative traditional central bank and a financial system that, on the whole, works pretty well. They aren’t obviously the best candidate for this. [But] if you’re interested in sovereign digital currency, your first stop should be what’s going on with the Future of Money people at the bank of England.

Many, many major countries are now at least looking at this idea.
There are two countries that have actually done it already. That’s the news story on the left. Tunisia actually has a blockchain national currency that is legal tender. Just about a month ago [December 2016], Senegal became the second. You have two African countries that essentially have an electronic currency, blockchained and circulating side by side with their more traditional paper money, the bills and coins.
This is an idea that is really already here, but my suspicion is that you’re going to see this adopted and spread into some of the more major economies. I think that either Sweden or Singapore are the best bet for who will be the first major large economy, but if the value of this is proven, many other countries will fall pretty clearly in the line.

The Blockchain Is Going to Revolutionize Central Banking & Monetary Policy

This is an interesting 19 min TED talk about copyright - from an artist. Given that information is a non-rival good the 21st century requires more appropriate ways to reward creators and increase the access to knowledge to scale learning. Non-rival goods means that sharing does not diminish the good - but in fact increases it usefulness. For example, if I read your book - you still own the book - you are not diminished in any way - but we are both wealthier in that now we can talk about the book & its knowledge and in this way add to our understanding.

Copyright is Brain Damage | Nina Paley | TEDxMaastricht

Ideas aren't good or bad because of what licenses people slap on them. Just relate to the ideas themselves. [Filmed at TEDxMaastricht]

Nina Paley made her first animation when she was 13 and has been making animated movies and cartoons ever since. This is where her true passion shines through and this is where she has been able to make her mark as an outspoken and impactful voice for intellectual freedom! Acclaimed for her animated feature film Sita Sings the Blues, which she says “…like all culture belongs to you [the audience] already“. She is an advocate of ‘copyleft’, the opposite –obviously- of copyright.

Copyleft is a form of licensing and can be used to maintain copyright conditions. But Nina even goes a step further, a step beyond copyleft, by stating that licensing, even copyleft licensing, is still part of the "permission culture" she advocates resisting.

This is a 1 hour video presentation by Yannis Varoufakis about the nature of money and value. Very worth the view for anyone interested in the future of our economy and value creation in a true market economy or perhaps a collaborative commons.

Yanis Varoufakis On Ancient Greece And The Nature of Money

The lecture was presented by Professor Yanis Varoufakis at the University of California, Berkeley, on 11/7/2014

Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek economist. Varoufakis was a member of the Parliament of Greece between January and September 2015. He represented the ruling Syriza party and held the position of Minister of Finance for seven months. He voted against the terms of the third bailout package for Greece. In February 2016, Varoufakis launched the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25)

Varoufakis enrolled in the economics course at the University of Essex, United Kingdom, in 1978. After a few weeks of lectures, he switched his degree to mathematics. Varoufakis moved to the University of Birmingham in October 1981, obtaining a MSc in mathematical statistics in October 1982. He completed his PhD in economics back at the University of Essex in 1987. Between 1982 and 1988, Varoufakis taught economics and econometrics at the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia. In 1988, he spent a year as a lecturer at the University of Cambridge. From 1989 to 2000, he taught as senior lecturer in economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Sydney with short stints at the University of Glasgow and the Université catholique de Louvain and also acquired Australian citizenship. In 2000, Varoufakis returned to Greece where he was unanimously elected an associate professor of economic theory at the University of Athens. In 2002, Varoufakis established The University of Athens Doctoral Program in Economics (UADPhilEcon), which he directed until 2008. In 2005 he was promoted to full professor of economic theory. Beginning in March 2012, Varoufakis became Economist-in-Residence at Valve Corporation, researching the virtual economy on the Steam digital delivery platform. From January 2013, he taught at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, as a visiting professor. In November 2013, he was appointed guest professor at Stockholm University, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, to work within game and decision theory at the eGovLab. On 22 January 2015, the International University College of Turin awarded to Varoufakis a Honorary Professorship in Comparative Law Economics and Finance for his extraordinary theoretical contribution to the understanding of the global economic crisis.

This is a fascinating piece - indicating the fundamentally social nature of at least some animals and seems to dispel the myth of a ‘dog eat dog’ natural world.

Dogs and wolves both get sad when you don’t treat them fairly

Wolves and dogs are a lot like children: they want everything to be fair and they have surprisingly elaborate social hierarchies. But unlike children, canines don’t throw temper tantrums if you give their compatriot a better treat—they’re far too mature for that. Our furry friends simply stop playing the game.

If you put two canines in side-by-side cages where they can both see each other, things get a little trickier. The trainer stands in the middle with food and after the canines press the button each gets a reward. Wolves and dogs will do this repeatedly if everyone gets the same food. But if they don’t get a reward while their partner does, or if their partner gets a better reward—meat instead of kibble—they’re not happy campers. They don’t get upset, they just stop buying in. Wolves respond even faster than dogs, possibly because dogs have a stronger desire to please their humans and will put up with more before they opt out. But both canine types will eventually refuse to participate in the button pressing game. Some will simply stop pressing, others walk to the other end of the cage. And it wasn’t for a lack of love for kibble, because animals kept playing the game if they were doing so alone. They’ll keep pressing that button if they get any kind of reward—just don’t you dare try to reward some other dog more.

The effect was more dramatic when the partner dog was a subordinate. Alpha dogs and wolves stopped participating sooner if their social inferior was getting unfairly rewarded. Even after the experiment was over, partnered canines spent less time together. Dogs, more so than wolves, didn’t even want to be around their trainer after being treated unfairly.

The fact that wolves and dogs both react to inequity suggests that their sense of fairness is a shared evolutionary trait. We didn’t make dogs more cooperative by domesticating them—they always wanted to work together for an equal reward. In fact, we may have made dogs less cooperative and replaced some of that mutualistic instinct with a desire to be subordinate.

This is a beautiful vision of new urban design - perhaps driven by necessity. The images are worth the view - this could become integrated in any urban development.

China breaks ground on first “Forest City” that fights air pollution

A pollution-fighting green city unlike any before is springing to life in China. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, the first “Forest City” is now under construction Liuzhou, Guangxi Province. The futuristic city will use renewable energy for self sufficiency and be blanketed in almost 1 million plants and 40,000 trees—a sea of greenery capable of absorbing nearly 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 57 tons of pollutants annually.

If China is building a ‘Forest City’ this company is bringing the farm to urban locations - and provides a future use for unsuccessful shopping malls and other commercial buildings throughout a city. This article is worth the time and thought.

Infarm wants to put a farm in every grocery store

Imagine a future where you go into a grocery store to buy some fresh basil, and, as you traverse the aisle, instead of polythene bags containing mass-produced snippets of the herb that have been flown in from thousands of miles away, in front of you are a stack of illuminated containers, each housing a mini basil farm.
The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system. Growing out from the centre, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned leaves ready for you, the customer, to harvest.

Now imagine no more, because, to paraphrase science fiction writer William Gibson, the farm of the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin is developing an “indoor vertical farming” system capable of growing anything from herbs, lettuce and other vegetables, and even fruit. The concept might not be entirely new — Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation — but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking.

This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves.

It’s not only renewable energies that are transforming energy geopolitics and urban infrastructure - new forms of digital equipment that are less expensive, more robust, more adaptable and effective.

Smart Transformers Will Make the Grid Cleaner and More Flexible

The solid-state transformer is poised to remake the electrical distribution grid
It would be hard to overstate the importance of transformers in our electrical networks. They’re literally everywhere: on poles and pads, in substations and on private property, on the ground and under it. There are probably dozens in your neighborhood alone. It’s hard to imagine a world without them. But my colleagues and I are doing just that.

In the distribution system, transformers typically take medium, or “primary,” voltages measured in the thousands of volts and convert them to secondary voltages—such as 120, 240, or 480 volts—that can be safely delivered to homes and businesses all over the world. It’s an approach that’s been used since before alternating current won the war of currents in 1892. It is difficult to name another electrotechnology that has survived as long.

Nevertheless, it is time to start thinking beyond the conventional transformer. For one thing, transformers are bulky. They’re often cooled with oil, which can leak and is difficult to dispose of safely. Crucially, transformers are passive, one-way tools. They aren’t designed to adjust to rapidly changing loads. This shortcoming will fast become intolerable as distributed power sources such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric-vehicle batteries feed more and more energy to the grid.

Happily enough, research into a new kind of technology—one that could address all of these limitations—has been making significant strides. Thanks to recent advances in power electronics, we can now contemplate building smart, efficient “solid-state transformers,” or SSTs. They promise to handle tasks that are difficult if not impossible for a conventional transformer to accomplish, such as managing the highly variable, two-way flow of electricity between, say, a microgrid and the main grid. What’s more, these smart transformers can be modular, making them easy to transport and install. And they can be significantly smaller than an equivalent conventional transformer—with as little as about half the weight and a third the volume.

This is fascinating even what seems like the most common thing in our world and life has new mysteries becoming revealed. A short but worthwhile read.
"The new results give very strong support to a picture where water at room temperature can't decide in which of the two forms it should be, high or low density, which results in local fluctuations between the two," says Lars G.M. Pettersson, professor in Theoretical Chemical Physics at Stockholm University. "In a nutshell: Water is not a complicated liquid, but two simple liquids with a complicated relationship."

Odd properties of water and ice explained: Water exists as two different liquids

We normally consider liquid water as disordered with the molecules rearranging on a short time scale around some average structure. Now, however, scientists at Stockholm University have discovered two phases of the liquid with large differences in structure and density. The results are based on experimental studies using X-rays, which are now published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

When we think of ice it is most often as an ordered, crystalline phase that you get out of the ice box, but the most common form of ice in our planetary system is amorphous, that is disordered, and there are two forms of amorphous ice with low and high density. The two forms can interconvert and there have been speculations that they can be related to low- and high-density forms of liquid water. To experimentally investigate this hypothesis has been a great challenge that the Stockholm group has now overcome.

This is a great brief article discussing the current state of the art in the efforts to create a viable quantum commercial computer in the next five years. Worth the read for anyone interested in the possible next ‘Moore’s Law’ of computing.

Big Plans Ahead For Quantum Computing

The first quantum computers are on the way. Bright and early on the first day of the 2017 APS March Meeting in New Orleans, researchers from Google, Microsoft, and Harvard University discussed their recent successes and their near-term plans for this nascent technology to a room crammed full of physicists.

John Martinis, one of Google’s quantum computing gurus, laid out the company’s "stretch goal": to build and test a 49-qubit ("quantum bit") quantum computer by the end of this year. This computer will use qubits made of superconducting circuits. Each qubit is prepared in a precise quantum state based on a two-state system. The test will be a milestone in quantum computer technology. In a subsequent presentation, Sergio Boixo, Martinis’ colleague at Google, said that a quantum computer with approximately 50 qubits will be capable of certain tasks beyond anything the fastest classical computers can do.

Published last month in Nature, the Google group predicted that industry will commercialize small, specialized quantum computers five years from now. "If we can do something useful and commercially viable, then there will be funding to build up the industry and scale up," Martinis says.

This is a very short intro to a new form glue that can blend many types of materials with very strong yet pliable bonds. A 3 min video explains everything.

New ‘superglue’ could seal the deal for stretchable batteries, soft robots

Superglue is great for fixing busted bookshelves, suitcase wheels, and—of course—shoes. But what if you want to fuse something a little more jiggly, like the gel cushions used to pad crumbling spinal discs? You’d be out of luck, until now. That’s because scientists have created a new kind of glue that can bond hard and soft substances to hydrogels, Jello-like materials used in everything from medical devices to soft robots.

Previously, researchers in these fields used an ultraviolet light treatment, but it could take up to an hour or more to attach the surfaces together. Now, a team of experimental physicists has invented a new adhesive, made of superglue’s main ingredient—cyanoacrylate—plus an organic compound that diffuses into the parts being fused, leading to a tough bond without brittle residue left behind. This nonsolvent delays the hardening of the glue just long enough to let it seep into each layer being pressed together, forming a bond within seconds. The hydrogel bond can hold up to 1 kilogram and stretch up to 2000%, the researchers report this week in Science Advances.

That’s good news for spine docs and robotics buffs alike—not only can the new adhesive help build devices like this octobot, but it can also be used to deliver drugs through soft, permeable patches that adhere to the skin. It can also help researchers designing stretchable batteries and electronic skin, hydrogel-based electronic patches packed with sensors for taking vital signs and communicating with outside devices. The only downside? It won’t be on the market for another 3 to 5 years.

CRISPR seems to be on an exponential rise in use and power. Here’s one of the latest developments.
“You and I differ in about 1 million spots in our genetic code,” says Ilya Finkelstein, an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at UT Austin and the project’s principal investigator. “Because of this genetic diversity, human gene editing will always be a custom-tailored therapy.”

New Technique Enables Safer Gene-Editing Therapy Using CRISPR

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin took an important step toward safer gene-editing cures for life-threatening disorders, from cancer to HIV to Huntington’s disease, by developing a technique that can spot editing mistakes a popular tool known as CRISPR makes to an individual’s genome. The research appears today in the journal Cell.

Scientists already use the gene-editing tool called CRISPR to edit the genetic code of nearly any organism. CRISPR-based gene editing will have an enormous impact on human health. More than a dozen clinical trials employing CRISPR on human cells are reportedly already underway, but the approach is imperfect. In theory, gene-editing should work much like fixing a recurring typo in a document with an auto-correct feature, but CRISPR molecules—proteins that find and edit genes—sometimes target the wrong genes, acting more like an auto-correct feature that turns correctly spelled words into typos. Editing the wrong gene could create new problems, such as causing healthy cells to become cancerous.

The UT Austin team developed a way to rapidly test a CRISPR molecule across a person’s entire genome to foresee other DNA segments it might interact with besides its target. This new method, they say, represents a significant step toward helping doctors tailor gene therapies to individual patients, ensuring safety and effectiveness.

The researchers took a DIY approach to developing the equipment and software for their technique, using existing laboratory technology to develop CHAMP, or Chip Hybridized Affinity Mapping Platform. The heart of the test is a standard next generation genome sequencing chip already widely used in research and medicine. Two other key elements—designs for a 3-D printed mount that holds the chip under a microscope and software the team developed for analyzing the results—are open source. As a result, other researchers can easily replicate the technique in experiments involving CRISPR.

This is a signal of where gene sequencing is going - whether it is with this company or others - the next decade will see the technology becoming every more accessible.

Oxford Nanopore’s Hand-Held DNA Analyzer Has Traveled the World

A British company bets a hand-held analyzer will change how we look at DNA.
The instrument, called the MinION, works by pulling DNA through around 500 nanoscopic pores and reading it as it passes through by measuring an electrical signal produced by each nucleotide, or DNA letter. Oxford Nanopore Technologies, a private British company that has spent 12 years and about $200 million developing the invention, foresees its cheap DNA sequencers providing a way to study life in real time. Every living thing has its own distinctive DNA, and being able to read it provides a powerful tool to identify and profile microbes in great detail. In the last year, the same gadget has seen action in Antarctica to check for life in frozen valleys, on the International Space Station to sequence genes in space for the first time, and deep below the earth in a Welsh coal mine called the “Big Pit.”

Globally, the market for high-speed DNA sequencers and the chemicals to run them is currently about $3 billion a year, according to the consultancy DeciBio—roughly the amount that a single blockbuster drug brings in. The market is dominated by Illumina, a San Diego company whose top-of-the-line machine costs $1 million, takes up as much space as a large filing cabinet, and weighs 498 pounds. It can decode 35 human genomes per week, at high accuracy, for less than $1,000 apiece. In the hands of big academic centers and companies, these machines are powering genetic research into the causes of disease and, increasingly, the quest for new types of cancer diagnostics and prenatal tests.

All those activities might one day be run instead using nanopore sequencing—or at least Oxford hopes so. Right now, the MinION is a good way to identify and study bacteria and viruses. But last year, the first human genomes were sequenced on a MinION as well. (It’s still a cumbersome process and not as inexpensive, however—taking close to $20,000 worth of disposable cartridges at $500 each.)

This is a great signal for some of the positive potential of the emerging Internet of Things (and sensors) - not just for early detection of serious diseases of livestock - but of everyone.

Image analysis and artificial intelligence will change dairy farming

Cow gait images allow early detection of serious diseases
An early detection method for cow lameness (hoof disease), a major disease of dairy cattle, has now been developed from images of cow gait with an accuracy of 99 percent or higher by applying human gait analysis. This technique allows early detection of lameness from cow gait, which was previously difficult. It is hoped that a revolution in dairy farming can be achieved through detailed observation by AI-powered image analysis.

This is a fascinating signal of the emerging power of brain imaging to understand cognitive content - what people are thinking. The implications …. well unimaginable.

“Mind Reading” Technology to Decode Complex Thoughts

Carnegie Mellon University scientists can now use brain activation patterns to identify complex thoughts, such as, “The witness shouted during the trial.”
This latest research led by CMU’s Marcel Just builds on the pioneering use of machine learning algorithms with brain imaging technology to “mind read.” The findings indicate that the mind’s building blocks for constructing complex thoughts are formed by the brain’s various sub-systems and are not word-based. Published in Human Brain Mapping and funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the study offers new evidence that the neural dimensions of concept representation are universal across people and languages.

“One of the big advances of the human brain was the ability to combine individual concepts into complex thoughts, to think not just of ‘bananas,’ but ‘I like to eat bananas in evening with my friends,'” said Just, the D.O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “We have finally developed a way to see thoughts of that complexity in the fMRI signal. The discovery of this correspondence between thoughts and brain activation patterns tells us what the thoughts are built of.”

The new study demonstrates that the brain’s coding of 240 complex events, sentences like the shouting during the trial scenario uses an alphabet of 42 meaning components, or neurally plausible semantic features, consisting of features, like person, setting, size, social interaction and physical action. Each type of information is processed in a different brain system—which is how the brain also processes the information for objects. By measuring the activation in each brain system, the program can tell what types of thoughts are being contemplated.

This is another frontier for algorithmic intelligence - the domains of creative expression. The visuals are worth to look.

Artificially intelligent painters invent new styles of art

Now and then, a painter like Claude Monet or Pablo Picasso comes along and turns the art world on its head. They invent new aesthetic styles, forging movements such as impressionism or abstract expressionism. But could the next big shake-up be the work of a machine?

An artificial intelligence has been developed that produces images in unconventional styles – and much of its output has already been given the thumbs up by members of the public.

The team – which also included researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Facebook’s AI lab in California – modified a type of algorithm known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), in which two neural nets play off against each other to get better and better results. One creates a solution, the other judges it – and the algorithm loops back and forth until the desired result is reached.

In the art AI, one of these roles is played by a generator network, which creates images. The other is played by a discriminator network, which was trained on 81,500 paintings to tell the difference between images we would class as artworks and those we wouldn’t – such as a photo or diagram, say.
The discriminator was also trained to distinguish different styles of art, such as rococo or cubism.

This is a longish but interesting article exploring how headlines are effective (or not) in drawing our attention.

We Analyzed 100 Million Headlines. Here’s What We Learned

It is difficult to overstate the importance of headlines. A good headline can entice and engage your audience to click, to read, and to share your content. In many cases headlines are the thing that is shared rather than the article. So you knew that. But do you know what makes an engaging headline?
To help answer this question we analyzed 100 million article headlines. We have set out below our findings from the research including the:
  • Headline phrases that drive most engagement on Facebook
  • Worst performing headline phrases on Facebook
  • Most effective phrases that start or end headlines
  • Optimum number of words and characters to use in a headline
  • Most impactful numbers to use in headlines
  • Most engaging Twitter headline phrases
  • Differences between B2C and B2B headlines
While there is no magic formula for creating a viral or popular headline, there are many lessons we can learn to improve our content engagement. We shared our findings with a number of content experts to reflect on the implications of the research for writers. We have included their expert thoughts and advice at the end of this post. We have also included a section on how you can analyze headlines yourself using BuzzSumo.

Here’s a nice top ten list of this year’s signals.

These are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2017

A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including “artificial leaves” that turn CO2 into fuel, and a technique that harvests water from air, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, according to a list published today by the World Economic Forum.

The technologies were selected by the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network and Global Future Councils in collaboration with Scientific American and its Board of Advisors. Each technology was chosen for its potential to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet. The experts were also looking for indications that the technologies have reached a level of maturity that would enable widespread take-up in the coming 3-5 years.

“New technologies are redefining industries, blurring traditional boundaries and creating new opportunities on a scale never seen before. Public and private institutions must develop the correct policies, protocols and collaborations to allow such innovation to build a better future, while avoiding the risks that unchecked technological change could pose,” said Murat Sönmez, Head of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum.
The top 10 technologies to make this year's list are:
1. Liquid biopsies
2. Harvesting clean water from air
3. Deep learning for visual tasks
4. Liquid fuels from sunshine
5. The Human Cell Atlas
6. Precision farming
7. Affordable catalysts for green vehicles
8. Genomic vaccines
9. Sustainable design of communities
10. Quantum computing

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