In a recent perspective article published in the journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from across the world discussed the recent game-changing achievements in science and technology that have the potential to change human lives immediately and across future decades.
Perspective: Game changers in science and technology - now and beyond. Image Credit: metamorworks / Shutterstock
Ground-breaking discoveries in science and technological innovations over centuries have improved our understanding of the world and significantly advanced various aspects of human life. However, a recent study has shown that the probability of scientific breakthroughs and patents becoming disruptive is decreasing over time, suggesting that, with time, fewer scientific discoveries and technological innovations have the potential to be game changers. The dearth of interdisciplinary research and the tendency to delve deeper into a narrower field of existing knowledge is believed to be the reasons for the decrease in ground-breaking scientific achievements.
Furthermore, technological advancements must also consider environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Keeping these goals in mind, the team of researchers presented a comprehensive list of recent game-changers with the ability to bring about immediate and long-term changes while moving towards a sustainable and holistic approach to consumption and manufacture.
Game-changers with immediate impacts
Among the various fields that have the potential to impact everyday human lives in the near future, the researchers discussed topics such as pandemic preparedness, single-cell omics, messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) based vaccines, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in drug discovery, gene editing, microbiome, cellular therapy, digital health tools and wearables, carbon capture, three-dimensional (3D) printing, cultured meat, and a few others.
The response to the recent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, including active surveillance to contain the number of cases and limit the spread of the virus, as well as the rapid development of therapeutic methods and vaccine technology such as mRNA vaccines, has successfully diminished the threat of the virus. Furthermore, while the risk of other pathogens and potential pandemics is inevitable, the technologies and surveillance platforms developed during the COVID-19 pandemic will increase the preparedness for future pandemics.
The development of single-cell omics technologies has helped break down complex biological systems and examine the heterogeneity in the functions and interactions between cells and tissues. This has provided the finer resolution information necessary to understand diseases. The authors comprehensively discussed the existing single-cell omics technologies and their applications in biomedical sciences and furthering our understanding of human biology.
Another significant advancement in health and medicine in recent years has been in our understanding of the complexity and role of the gut microbiome. This has primarily come about due to the development of advanced sequencing methods such as whole metagenome sequencing and bioinformatics tools that can examine genomes of microbiota.
In particular, the research on the microbiota-gut-brain axis has uncovered the role of the gut microbiome in neurodevelopment, behavior, and various other aspects of the central nervous system. Additionally, studies on the role of the gut microbiota in cancer and tumorigenesis have also had impacts on systemic anti-cancer therapy.
The study also discussed advancements in other fields that have been game changers for human health and medicine, including gene editing, which has applications in drug discovery, cancer therapy, and agriculture, the development of digital health devices and wearables that provide individual-level health data, and the use of machine learning methods in drug discovery.
Game changers in the next decade
Although many of these scientific and technological advancements have already influenced and improved various aspects of life, the authors believe that the true potential of these game changers will come through in the next few decades. These include developments in medicine and healthcare, such as targeting biological condensates with novel drugs, research on anti-aging, and the focus on healthcare as opposed to sick care.
Technological advancements with future impacts on other fields of life were also discussed in the study, and these comprised robotics, including micro and nanorobots and their applications, microchip technology, space exploration, using deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to store data, and the continuing research on using nuclear fusion as a power source.
Overall, this comprehensive review of the current research and developments in scientific and technological fields and their short and long-term impacts on various aspects of life highlighted the importance of an interdisciplinary research approach.
Of all the game changers discussed here, one that stands out due to its wide range of applications across various fields is artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. From making information accessible to each individual to significant advances in human health, robotics, and artificial intelligence are ushering in a new age for scientific and technological breakthroughs.