Breakthrough Technologies 2021

Here is our annual list of technological advances that we believe will make a real difference in solving important problems. How do we pick? We avoid the one-off tricks, the overhyped new gadgets. Instead we look for those breakthroughs that will truly change how we live and work.

  1. Unhackable internet 
  2. Why it matters

    The internet is increasingly vulnerable to hacking; a quantum one would be unhackable.

  3. Key players

    Delft University of Technology, Quantum Internet Alliance, University of Science and Technology of China

  4. Hyper-personalized medicine 
  5. Why it matters

    Genetic medicine tailored to a single patient means hope for people whose ailments were previously uncurable.

  6. Key players

    A-T Children’s Project, Boston Children’s Hospital, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, US Food & Drug Administration

  7. Digital money 
  8. Why it matters

    As the use of physical cash declines, so does the freedom to transact without an intermediary. Meanwhile, digital currency technology could be used to splinter the global financial system.

  9. Key players

    People’s Bank of China, Facebook

  10. Anti-aging drugs 
  11. Why it matters

    A number of different diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia, could potentially be treated by slowing aging.

  12. Key players

    Unity Biotechnology, Alkahest, Mayo Clinic, Oisín Biotechnologies, Siwa Therapeutics

  13. AI-discovered molecules 
  14. Why it matters

    Commercializing a new drug costs around $2.5 billion on average. One reason is the difficulty of finding promising molecules.

  15. Key players

    Insilico Medicine, Kebotix, Atomwise, University of Toronto, BenevolentAI, Vector Institute

  16. Satellite mega-constellations
  17. Quantum supremacy
  18. Tiny AI
  19. Differential privacy
  20. Climate change attribution