Expert shares the top 10 technologies set to change America in 2024


‘It’s really goofy-looking’: Expert shares the top 10 technologies set to change America in 2024

'We're all hoping for them.'


Ramon Ramirez


Posted on Mar 8, 2024   Updated on Mar 8, 2024, 1:24 pm CST

As we doom-scroll about the future, the MIT Technology Review makes an annual exercise of quantifying it.

Each year, the publication releases its list of 10 technologies that are primed to change the world as they reach “an important moment in development” and hit consumers at a mass scale.

That quote came from Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the MIT publisher and CEO. She was on the ground Friday at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. During SXSW’s Interactive opening weekend, startup dreamers and accomplished bigwigs alike enjoy fireside chats about the future.

As the conference began, Bramson-Boudreau was here to showcase her team’s list of “gamechangers with staying power.” Here’s what the MIT Technology Review thinks is poised to change our daily lives this year.

1) AI for everything

“We’re now in a time when the public is interacting with AI directly and consciously playing around with it,” Bramson-Boudreau said. Indeed: We are using generative AI for art, search, email, chatbots. These tools have bias problems, and she predicts more solutions this year. She says you can expect to see major lawsuits as AI art runs into copyright issues. It’ll be a game of “whack-a-mole,” as the workarounds try to curb the random and often problematic spread of AI content.

What does this mean for the workforce? MIT Technology Review says jobs will change in scope, but not in numbers. So, maybe expect some training at work.

2) Better solar panels

Super-efficient solar cells are made at scale now, and they’re better at converting solar energy by “about 50%,” Bramson-Boudreau says.

3) Apple Vision Pro

“It’s really goofy-looking,” Bramson-Boudreau said about Tim Cook wearing one of his company’s new VR headsets. But “mockery aside,” MIT agrees it’s incredibly immersive and a game-changer. 

“The price will drop and we expect this to be transformational,” she added.

A Vision Pro is more than $3,000. It basically puts an iPhone on your face and lets you control it with your eyes. You can imagine everyone on an airplane watching movies with one or opening Christmas presents with their loved ones from the other side of the world.

4) Weight-loss drugs

Six million Americans have been prescribed weight loss drugs, Bramson-Boudreau said. There are a ton more in the pipeline beyond Ozempic and a looming “sea change” from injections to pills.

5) Enhanced geothermal systems 

Taking heat from the earth! As Bramson-Boudreau said, “It’s a really good, stable source of renewable energy.” It’s, however, been a limited source of energy. But via fracking techniques, geothermal companies can now “crack open rocks, inject water,” and the steam that comes out can drive turbines and produce electricity. 

Of course, research suggests fracking leads to major earthquakes, as Bramson-Boudreau noted.

6) Chiplets

Smaller, more specialized computer chips, chiplets, are optimized when they get linked together. Doing this has been a limitation to their spread. But now there’s something called the “universal chiplet express.” Through this, the tech sector can reduce costs, and this can greatly boost the adoption of chiplets in fields like auto-manufacturing, AI, and aerospace.

7) The first gene-editing treatment

Sickle cell disease can now be treated by editing it out of someone’s DNA code and turning on the production of healthy hemoglobin, and this treatment was greenlit by the FDA in December.

8) Exascale computers

These processors are as powerful as 100,000 laptops combined, Bramson-Boudreau said. The first one was developed in the U.S., and it’s called “Frontier.” These machines can perform excellent climate models and simulations of the universe. But the big challenge is energy: “They are energy hogs. Frontier’s power when idling is the same amount of power we would use for thousands for homes.”

9) Heat pumps

“Not as exciting,” Bramson-Boudreau said of the “older” technology which both heats and cools and is more efficient than gas furnaces. Yet their time seems to be now. Last year, sales in the U.S. out-paced gas furnaces. In Europe, they grew 40% year-over-year, driven by the energy crisis over the Ukraine-Russia war.

“There will be steps forward to increase production” and “make sure the electrical grids.. Can handle the demand and transition,” Bramson-Boudreau said.

10) Twitter killers

This one drew a round of applause when Bramson-Boudreau mentioned it, alluding to the controversial shepherding of Twitter (now X) by Elon Musk.

“We’re all hoping for them… [this is] our name for the new social media options,” Bramson-Boudreau said.

As Twitter has lost its advertisers and users, Bramson-Boudreau says platforms like Mastodon and Blue Sky that are not owned by one person are the most encouraging frontiers. The problem is no one’s really on them now, and “thus far it’s been Threads, a Meta company.”

As it turns out, the “real Twitter killer is Elon Musk,” Bramson-Boudreau said.

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*First Published: Mar 8, 2024, 1:30 pm CST