Which innovations ought to we prioritise to safeguard the setting and human well being and happiness? From higher batteries and photovoltaic paint to a common vaccine precursor, Vaclav Smil shares his want record
3 January 2023
I HAVE by no means been a fan of science fiction. I’m extremely suspicious of any too-good-to-be-true claims about “epoch-making” discoveries. However I’ve additionally written extensively concerning the transformative impacts of innovations, from artificial ammonia for fertiliser manufacturing and semiconductor units in electronics to the 5-in-1 vaccine, which immunises towards a spread of illnesses. What’s extra, it appears apparent to me that we want new basic advances like these to deal with the multitude of financial, social and environmental challenges we presently face. I tackle potential advances in my new e-book, Invention and Innovation: A quick historical past of hype and failure.
Figuring out the highest priorities for potential breakthroughs isn’t straightforward, not least as a result of there’s a lot room for enchancment. Contemplate vitality. Invoice Gates has famous that: “Half the expertise wanted to get to zero emissions both doesn’t exist but or is simply too costly for a lot of the world to afford.” You could possibly say the identical about each scientific and technical class. Furthermore, any record of probably the most fascinating innovations is certain to be subjective. If you happen to see mine as somewhat conservative, I plead responsible: there isn’t a faster-than-light journey, no terraforming of different planets.
As an alternative, my prime 12 improvements, which I set out right here, cowl a spread of points that we urgently want to handle. They give attention to areas that can have the largest influence on human well-being and the setting and the place there’s already data to construct on. My want record even consists of three adjustments that every one of us can get to work on proper now (see “Greater and higher”).
A common vaccine precursor