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MIT Technology Review’s 10 breakthrough technologies to watch in 2020

AI, data, and climate change are all here, to the surprise of no one.

mit sign on campus for technologies
Image: Victor J. Blue (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Every year, the MIT Technology Review puts its considerable brainpower into seeing what technological advances will shape the year ahead. Those technologies could range from manufacturing, like 3D Metal Printing in 2018, to the cow-free burger, as chosen by Bill Gates in 2019.

The point here is that all of these technologies genuinely have the potential to change how we live and work. I mean, one of the tech items chosen in 2011 was Facebook’s Social Indexing, and we all know how that changed us.

The list this year ranges from privacy to anti-aging treatments that work, and various technologies using quantum mechanics in weird, unique ways.

Here’s the full list, complete with links to MIT Technology Review‘s blog post so you can learn more:

  • Unhackable internet – Dutch researchers are currently connecting four cities with “unhackable” quantum links for internet. It’ll take up to 5 years for the links to be completed, so we’ll have to wait to see how unhackable they really are.
  • Hyper-personalized medicine – New advances in rapid drug prototyping have enabled doctors to make genetic medicine tailored to individual patients. The downside? That development cycle is expensive.
  • Digital money – Cryptocurrency is going mainstream this year, with Facebook’s Libra project and a state-backed digital currency from the People’s Bank of China.

    facebook libra cyrptocurrency

    Image: Facebook

  • Anti-aging drugs – New types of drugs that slow the aging process are in development, which could potentially treat diseases like cancer, heart disease, and dementia
  • AI-discovered molecules – Your next wonderdrug might be found by an AI, with machine learning using the properties of known molecules to generate leads for researchers to follow
  • Satellite mega-constellations – Small CubeSats from companies like SpaceX are cheaper to build and get into orbit than ever before. Cool, right? Blanketing the earth in WiFi sounds cool, but will it hinder astronomy researchers?

    cubesats in space

    Image: NASA

  • Quantum supremacy – Google recently proved that quantum computers could solve problems in minutes that classical computers would take thousands of years. Now, it’s time to scale those quantum computers so they’re big enough to tackle useful programs
  • Tiny AI – You probably have this in your pocket right now. Both Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri now use Tiny AI, with their speech recognition routines now run on device, instead of sending data out to a remote server. That makes responses quicker, and your privacy stronger. Sweet.

    google assistant

    Image: 9to5Google

  • Differential privacy – This year’s U.S. Census has a big problem. How does the government collect information on 330 million people without compromising their identities? By adding noise to the dataset, a process called differential privacy. Basically they switch around some attributes so the overall totals don’t change, but some individuals get their age changed or other vital stats.
  • Climate change attribution – Yes, climate change is a thing, regardless of what the deniers are saying. See, years of satellite data and better models has gotten researchers to the point where they can positively attribute climate change effects to extreme weather. Maybe now people can stop arguing about it and actually do something to mitigate things…

Phew, that’s a lot of things to watch this year. I could really do with some of that anti-aging stuff though, like right now.

What do you think? Do you agree with this list? What other technologies do you believe deserve to be on here? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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