One year ago, I posted a roundup of 2006 technology breakthroughs from MIT Technology Review. Of the breakthroughs listed at that time, displays, plug-in hybrids, and solar cells showed impressive progress over the subsequent 12 months.
Now, we arrive at the 2007 list, which has expanded from four categories last year to five this time.
The Year in Hardware : Gadgetmania
The Year in Energy : Solar power inches closer.
The Year in Biotechnology : Stem cell research methods that no longer need embryos.
The Year in Nanotechnology : Stanford University research into nanowires that dramatically increase battery capacity is the most promising breakthrough of 2007, in any discipline. Think 30-hour laptop batteries.
Most of the innovations in the articles above are in the laboratory phase, which means that about half will never progress enough to make it to market, and those that do will take 5 to 15 years to directly affect the lives of average people (remember that the laboratory-to-market transition period itself continues to shorten in most fields). But each one of these breakthroughs has world-changing potential, and that there are so many fields advancing simultaneously guarantees a massive new wave of improvement to human lives.
This scorching pace of innovation is entirely predictable, however. To internalize the true rate of technological progress, one merely needs to appreciate :
We are fortunate to live in an age when a single calendar year will invariably yield multiple technological breakthroughs, the details of which are easily accessible to laypeople. In the 18th century, entire decades would pass without any observable technological improvements, and people knew that their children would experience a lifestyle identical to their own. Today, we know with certainty that our lives in 2008 will have slight but distinct and numerous improvements in technological usage over 2007, just as 2007 was an improvement over 2006.
Into the Future we continue, where 2008 awaits..