Any fool on the street can tell you that technology is changing at a whiplash-inducing pace. What's much more difficult to predict is which technologies specifically are about to hit big. Manage to divine that information before the rest of the crowd and you can future-proof your career and get in early on some of the coolest (and most lucrative) business opportunities.
Of course, sorting through a pile of tech hype to find these nuggets of tech gold is one of the hardest jobs around. It demands not only a ton of specialized knowledge but also an uncanny ability to sense which way the cultural winds are blowing.
Thankfully, some of the smartest minds in the world are willing to help out, offering periodic lists of technologies that are about to change the world. One of the best is from MIT Technology Review, which has been naming breakthrough technologies to watch for 15 years now. (Some of the older lists, available here, are uncannily accurate.) Here are the journal's picks for 2017:
Reversing Paralysis. "Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away."
- Self-Driving Trucks. "Tractor-trailers without a human at the wheel will soon barrel onto highways near you. What will this mean for the nation's 1.7 million truck drivers?"
- Paying With Your Face. "Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. Will other countries follow?"
- Practical Quantum Computers. "Advances at Google, Intel, and several research groups indicate that computers with previously unimaginable power are finally within reach."
- The 360-Degree Selfie. "Inexpensive cameras that make spherical images are opening a new era in photography and changing the way people share stories."
- Hot Solar Cells. "By converting heat to focused beams of light, a new solar device could create cheap and continuous power."
- Gene Therapy 2.0. "Scientists have solved fundamental problems that were holding back cures for rare hereditary disorders. Next we'll see if the same approach can take on cancer, heart disease, and other common illnesses."
- The Cell Atlas. "Biology's next mega-project will find out what we're really made of."
- Botnets of Things. "The relentless push to add connectivity to home gadgets is creating dangerous side effects that figure to get even worse."
- Reinforcement Learning. "By experimenting, computers are figuring out how to do things that no programmer could teach them."