Technology modifies the natural world through innovative processes, systems, structures and devices to extend human abilities. Engineering is design under constraint that develops and applies technology to satisfy human needs and wants. Technology and engineering, coupled with the knowledge and methods derived from science and mathematics, profoundly influence the quality of life.
Curiously, the lack of a precise, universally accepted definition of AI probably has helped the field to grow, blossom, and advance at an ever-accelerating pace. Practitioners, researchers, and developers of AI are instead guided by a rough sense of direction and an imperative to “get on with it.” Still, a definition remains important and Nils J. Nilsson has provided a useful one: “Artificial intelligence is that activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.”
By analysing patterns from mobile phone usage, a team of researchers in San Francisco is able to predict the magnitude of a disease outbreak half way around the world. Similarly, an aid agency sees early warning signs of a drought condition in a remote Sub-Saharan region, allowing the agency to get a head start on mobilising its resources and save many more lives. Much attention is paid to the vital services that mobile phone technology has brought to billions of people in the developing world. But now many policy-makers, corporate leaders and development experts are realising the potential applications.
Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. While never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise innovative solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time. From batteries that can provide power to whole villages to microchips that could take the place of organs in medical research, this year’s 10 emerging technologies offer a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet.The Internet of Things (IoT), built from inexpensive microsensors and microprocessors paired with tiny power supplies and wireless antennas, is rapidly expanding the online universe from computers and mobile gadgets to ordinary pieces of the physical world: thermostats, cars, door locks, even pet trackers.
Blockchain technologies are touted as one of the most significant technical innovations in digitalization of asset ownership. Blockchain has been demonstrated to be a versatile programmable platform for managing contracts and ownership and providing an audit trail that cannot be easily tampered with, but can be distributed in real time. Pervasive market penetration of novel cloud-connected mobile devices - including wearables - in combination with cloud-based data storage and analytics enable new types of distributed payment and transaction platforms that can be built as an overlay on top of traditional financial services and banking systems. In extreme cases – as with distributed cryptocurrencies – not even a trusted third party such as a central bank is required.
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