Rebuild, Accelerate, Thrive
Tech Moonshots for Society
Image: Amity Point via Planet Snapshots
Groundbreaking, ambitious and radical: our “moonshots” project was launched in 2021 to shine a spotlight on the visionary ideas of world-leading tech thinkers, entrepreneurs and practitioners in transformative areas of health, energy, space, food and more.
Since then, science and technology has delivered astonishing advances, for instance, in the exploding field of biotech where the fast tracking of alternative cancer treatments, with several trials already underway, has built on the success of Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology. There’s been a new speed record of just over five hours for ultra-rapid genomic sequencing in a clinical-care setting while DeepMind continues with its goal of publishing the structures of more than 100 million proteins on its database – having already solved the long-standing protein-folding challenge.
No less impressive, climate-tech advances include the successful testing of the world’s strongest high-temperature superconducting magnet – moving us further down the path towards clean, commercial fusion energy – and game-changing energy-density improvements for solid-state batteries. Companies in this sector have been attracting more funding than ever before as investment megadeals boosted innovations from fusion energy through to electric-mobility startups.
More broadly across tech, leading research lab OpenAI is pushing forward with the evolution of its language models, Web 3.0 is seeing new forms of community building, and 3D printing is revolutionising the cost of building – both at home and in space.
Many of these technologies were named in our moonshots last year: notably, Vijay Pande heralded the novel age of engineered biological solutions we describe above, highlighting that revolutionary new capabilities in design and prediction mean we no longer need to wait for a miracle to solve biological crises. This is a theme that TrialSpark’s Benjamine Liu picks up below, looking at how we can speed up and lower the cost of clinical trials and drug development to improve health.
In 2021, Bob Mumgaard of Commonwealth Fusion Systems wrote about the potential of fusion, describing “the process that powers the stars.” This year’s contributors include Engine’s Katie Rae, who underlines the need to scale “tough tech” (or frontier tech) for our energy transition, and Planet’s Will Marshall, who discusses how satellites and AI can together be “humanity’s mission control”.
With the prospect of eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft raised last year by Lilium’s Daniel Wiegand, Alex Kendall of Wayve is today considering the opportunity for autonomous vehicles and AI in the physical world. Also reflecting on the promise of AI, Graphcore’s Nigel Toon writes about the concept of “ultra intelligence” and how increased computing power can identify “patterns and correlations at levels of depth imperceptible to humans,” therefore helping us to find answers to some of the great “unknown unknowns” of scientific exploration.
Some new themes do emerge for 2022. Set against the background of cryptocurrency’s rising prominence, leading voice Balaji Srinivasan highlights the potential that digital autonomous organisations have for community in the 21st century. Politicians such as Estonia’s Chief Information Officer Luukas Ilves, US Congressman Ro Khanna and Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang all set out how the internet and technology can be harnessed to improve the lives of citizens.
Drawing some of these ideas together, The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson shares his concept for an abundance agenda, something we have written about before. As countries around the world have struggled to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, his is a timely call: we must increase our technological infrastructure and capabilities to build solutions to the biggest challenges we face, not least in global health.
The ideas above are a selection of those that we should be looking to pursue to improve the health of people and the planet. But as X’s Sarah Hunter also rightly point outs, making moonshots happen can be as hard – even harder – than identifying the problem in the first place. This is a subject we will be exploring in more depth as we seek to improve the ways in which governments not only pursue high-risk, high-reward research, but also turn their visions into reality.
Have your own moonshot and ideas about building a better future? Do you have a view on what cities, food, the internet or government will look like? Join our ongoing salons on these topics and more to share your perspective. Get in touch for limited series passes available >> https://interintellect.com/series/the-future-of/