A New Century’s New Technologies

The technologies on which many of us depend today arose from a parallel convergence of discoveries in physics and engineering in the early twentieth century. The industries and economic drivers of the twenty-first century will arise from the increasingly combined efforts of biology and engineering.

DAVOS – This year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, addresses threats to geopolitical stability and human life, and seeks ways to accelerate the design of more effective political, economic, and technological tools to address them. Among this generation’s most daunting challenges are food, water, and energy shortages; climate change and rising sea levels; and the spread of new, drug-resistant diseases.

Humanity has faced threats to its existence and the health of the planet before, yet we have managed to avoid the apocalypse, or at least postpone it, through ingenuity and invention. This year’s Davos meeting will offer a glimpse of where the next life-, planet- and economy-saving discoveries and products will come from, and where we should invest our talents and treasure to fuel the next generation of transformative technologies.

An accelerating convergence of the biological, physical, and engineering sciences promises a stunning array of new technological solutions. Imagine a coal-fueled power plant that emits only water and clean air. Inside the plant, designer yeast cells transform the carbon dioxide released during the coal’s combustion into raw materials for floor tiles and other construction supplies.

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