MIT Tech Review’s latest futuristic mixtape: 10 breakthroughs of 2021

MIT picks tech to keep an eye on, including data trusts, green hydrogen, and multiskilled AI.


March 8, 2021

The MIT Technology Review recently released the 20th edition of its “10 Breakthrough Technologies.” The year’s list features predictable cameos as well as a few unknown talents.

The predictable stuff included COVID-related tech (mRNA, remote tools, contact tracing) and the TikTok algorithm.

Here are the 6 others:

Obviously there’s no privacy in the future

  • Data trusts: Turns out, everyone is tired of being hacked. Data trusts are a legal entity that can collect and manage data on the behalf of people or groups.
  • Hyper-accurate positioning: China completed its work on BeiDou (Big Dipper), a global positioning constellation with a target accuracy of 1.5 to 2 meters. Tinfoil hat, anyone?

The AI hype-train rolls on

  • GPT-3: Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 — bet you didn’t know that’s what it stood for. OpenAI’s beloved natural language processor is poised for more tomfoolery.
  • Multiskilled AI: AI systems are getting more senses. Recent breakthroughs allowed AI systems to generate images from text, and increase reading comprehension with visual cues.

Climate change is not dead

  • Lithium-METAL batteries: Not “Ion.” Metal. It’s a big difference. QuantumScape is developing a unique lithium-metal battery whose early tests show an 80% boost in EV range and faster charging.
  • Green Hydrogen: Hydrogen is the top pick for a fossil fuel alternative, but most production comes from not-so-green natural gas. Green hydrogen produces hydrogen from water with the help of green solar and wind electricity.

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