MIT Technology Review’s 2017 Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

Events, High Technology, Innovation Posted Jun 2, 2017 by Liza Vilnits

Every year, the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge (MITEF) hosts an event to highlight the year’s top ten breakthrough technologies, as predicted by MIT Technology Review editors. It’s a fascinating event with interesting speakers, engaging subjects and an inquisitive crowd.

Presented by Antonio Regalado, Senior Editor at MIT Technology Review Magazine, the 2017 top ten list was a compilation of emerging technologies that he and the other editors believe have a chance at solving some of the world’s biggest problems—or at least play a transformative role in finding new ways to solve them. During his presentation, Antonio spoke about why we should be paying attention to these technologies right now even if their promise is years in the future and urged those working in related areas to begin to pay attention to them today.

If you were there, you get why the evening was worthwhile. If you weren’t, here’s my cliff notes version of the list:

  1. Reversing Paralysis – Cerebral implants that read your brain and the associated thoughts of body movement to allow people with spinal cord injuries to physically move limbs that they don’t have feeling in. This is already being tested on monkeys.
  2. Self-Driving Trucks – We all know about self-driving cars, but with self-driving trucks, and the state of today’s e-commerce market, we’re likely to see human-less tractor-trailers on the road for up to 24 hours at a time. Antonio also posed the question of the impact this will have on the nation’s 1.7 million truck drivers.
  3. Paying with Your Face – Face-detecting systems that pinpoint 83 locations on your face are already being used to make payments in China. To become widely adopted, people should value the level of convenience enough to give up some of their privacy. It will also be interesting to see how hackers start to target these devices.
  4. Practical Quantum Computers – While these have been talked about for years, Antonio predicts that—due to advances at Google, Intel and others—we’ll begin to see quantum computers in the next five years. Microsoft thinks they’ll be the first to market.
  5. The 360-Degree Selfie – Samsung and Nikon are the big players. Facebook and Google already support live streaming of these images and its predicted that consumers will begin purchasing these inexpensive cameras, starting a new era of photography.
  6. Hot Solar Cells – Photonic crystals captures heat from sun, turning sunlight into electricity. This solar device has the potential to create continuous power.
  7. Gene Therapy 2.0 – Taking an engineered virus to a person’s cells to cure heart failure, Parkinson’s, cancer and more. We’re now seeing the next wave of therapies come to fruition. In Europe, two therapies have already been approved; the issue comes with pricing these medicines.
  8. The Cell Atlas – This is the successor of the human genome device, “biology’s next mega-project.”
  9. Botnets of Things – While connectivity continues to get added to our home gadgets, security of these IoT devices is still lacking. A prime example referenced by Antonio was the Mirai botnet which took down the internet infrastructure firm Dyn not long ago. Not as common knowledge, and perhaps a sign, Mirai means ‘future’ in Japanese.
  10. Reinforcement Learning – This technology allows machines to learn like people, figuring out how to achieve tasks through experimentation. The AI capabilities here have the potential to take us to a new plane of thinking, says Antonio.


If you’d like to access the full list here, feel free to do so here:

I’ll be tracking developments in these areas to see how prescient Antonio and the Tech Review team are! Until then, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and send positive mojo to all the incredibility intelligent scientists and technologists working to solve some our world’s biggest problems.