- from Shaastra :: vol 03 issue 01 :: Jan - Feb 2024
In the New Year, we zero in on some long-term trends and fields that will change business and society.
The beginning of a new year gives publications an opportunity to leave aside their regular reporting and do something different. In most cases, it involves looking forward to the year ahead. Looking ahead in science is a difficult exercise because fundamental research has an element of built-in unpredictability. In the case of technology, however, crystal-gazing isn’t usually hard to do. New technology is developed over long periods, and in good view of the literate public. Those who follow technical literature can see the future, in a broad sense, several years in advance. Most of the trends of 2024 were visible in 2023. We just had to draw the line a bit further.
However, this issue of Shaastra is not just about predicting the technology trends of 2024. Discerning readers will know that 2024 will be notable for gene therapy, quantum computing, gene-edited crops, and so on. All these developments have been building up for a while and are now in the commercialisation stage. Although Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing and gene editing are important, behind their buzz are deeper trends that would last much longer than one year — and probably continue for a decade or several decades. Our Cover Story is about picking some of these long-term trends and fields that will create substantial changes in business and society.
As our writers did the research, they came up with some expected as well as unexpected candidates. Of course, AI, quantum computing, and gene editing and therapy topped the list. Continuous manufacturing and electrochemistry, photonics and precision agriculture were on the list, too. As the list shortened, and we looked for common themes, we could also pick a few forces that drive technology development. Sustainability is a key theme, and so is equity. The research world increasingly focuses on collaboration, which is a powerful stimulant for solving intractable problems. Technology is now pushing the world towards a more sustainable and equitable future. The need for these is a strong driving force of research.
Four factors will drive innovation going forward: AI, international collaboration, sustainability and climate change.
Technology naturally moves in the direction of sustainability as it matures. Barring some exceptions, each new generation of technology consumes less energy and produces less waste than the previous one. It reduces the cost of development and, hence, of the final product, leading to outcomes that cost less and are, therefore, widely adopted. This natural course of history has now been accelerated by the strong climate change-driven pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and the need to reduce inequality. It is one of the recurring themes of our cover package.
As the pace of development speeds up, and entirely new areas of technology become available, some of them also emerge as invaluable tools for researchers. The best example is AI, which is now being used by researchers and technologists in almost every field. AI has developed so rapidly that it is driving all other areas of technology, by allowing scientists to solve problems that were otherwise intractable. Which is why we picked AI as a fourth trend driving technology, although it has also been dealt with as another field of research in the package.
MORE IN STORE
But the Cover Story package can only provide a glimpse of the fundamental changes brewing in the world of science and technology. As the year progresses, Shaastra reporters will dive deep into some of these areas. The current package offers just a hint of the enormous changes we hope to capture over this year. Alongside our cover stories, economist Avinash Tripathi writes about Nobel Laureate Robert Solow, who brought attention to the role of technology as a key driver of economic growth.
The special issue carries many of our regular features, too. There are stories on proton therapy, biosensors, and the peculiarities of the bat immune system, which could provide clues to fighting infections. Among our book reviews is one about complexity, a key feature of our world and one of the final frontiers of science. We hope you enjoy the issue and what follows during the rest of the year.