Wearable plant sensors, sustainable aviation fuel, and generative Artificial Intelligence are among the top 10 emerging technologies of 2023, a new report from the World Economic Forum has said.
The report, which assesses “how each technology will impact people, planet, prosperity, industry, and equity,” also lists flexible batteries (made of lightweight materials that can be twisted, bent and stretched), spatial omics (which allows scientists to “see” biological processes at the molecular level inside cells), and flexible neural electronics (brain machine interfaces that allow direct communication between the brain and external computers), among top 10 technologies poised to most impact the world in the next three to five years.
The report describes generative AI as a new type of AI capable of generating new and original content by learning from large datasets that was catapulted into public dialogue at the end of 2022 with the public release of ChatGPT.
“Evolving rapidly, generative AI is set to disrupt multiple industries, with applications in education, research and beyond,” it said.
Sustainable aviation fuel is produced from biological (e.g. biomass) and non-biological (e.g. CO2) sources. The report says it could be the answer to decarbonise the aviation industry in the short to medium term.
Wearable plant sensors are small, non-invasive devices that can be “worn” by individual plants for continuous monitoring of temperature, humidity, moisture, and nutrient levels.
The list further mentions “Designer Phages” (viruses that selectively infect specific types of bacteria), Metaverse for Mental Health (shared virtual spaces to improve mental health), Sustainable Computing (which includes liquid cooling systems, AI analytics, and modular data centres that can be colocated with existing energy sources such as methane flares to move towards net zero-energy data centres), and AI-Facilitated Healthcare, among the 10 technologies showing the most promise.
The World Economic Forum’s annual list mentions breakthrough technologies with the greatest potential to make a positive impact on the world.
Produced in collaboration with Frontiers — a publisher of peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journals — the top 10 picks in the report are chosen by a group of experts against several criteria.
“In addition to promising major benefits to societies and economies, they must also be disruptive, attractive to investors and researchers, and expected to have achieved considerable scale within five years,” the report said.
“Since the first edition in 2011, the report has identified little-known technologies that went on to have global impact. These include genomic vaccines, which were featured in the 2016 report and later became the technology underpinning most COVID-19 vaccines, as well as AI-led molecular design, which was featured on the 2018 list, two years before the first AI-discovered drugs entered clinical trials,” it added.