Bill Gates predicts the future
The legendary technologist was recently asked to describe inventions that will change the world (for the better that is). Here are my takeaways.
A few weeks ago, the MIT Technology Review invited Bill Gates to be the first guest curator of its 10 Breakthrough Technologies. He chose “things that not only will create headlines in 2019 but captured this moment in technological history”.
Here are my takeaways.
Ingestible sensors and smart pills
The human gut is 30-foot-long. For a long time, doctors have been trying to decode the dark, slimy tube probing both ends with cameras and scopes and liters of oral contrast liquid. But things are changing.
Ingestible sensors (pill-sized electronics that ping one’s smartphone with data after you defecate and swallow have started to arrive on the market). They don’t do much for now; these mostly measure pH, temperature, and pressure or monitor if patients have taken their medication. Researchers are working on new sensing technologies to detect a wider range of medical molecules.
Personalized cancer vaccines
Scientists and clinicians have developed a technology that reliably defines the neoantigens (foreign protein fragments recognized by the immune system) in a patient’s cancer.
Once neoantigens have been identified, teams can identify peptides (strings of amino acids) which can be used to create a vaccine to stimulate a protective immune system response. The information in a patient’s cancer is utilized to boost the immune system to initiate a stronger response from both cytotoxic and “helper” T cells (white blood cells that collaborate to eliminate cancer cells).
ECG on your wrist
When Apple launched the fourth version of its smartwatch (Apple Watch), a new selling point was not a feature we tend to associate with a “smart wearable”. The company added a feature that had only recently arrived in the form of consumer devices: an electrocardiograph (ECG), a device conceived to monitor the heart’s electrical activity.
Doing an ECG through such is super easy, non-intrusive and always available to you (as long as you wear the watch): launch an app, place your finger on the crown of the watch, and… wait. For 30 seconds, the electrical activity of your heart will draw a red trace across the watch’s screen.
Predicting premature birth
Premature birth is the most serious health risk facing moms and babies. It concerns all ethnic, racial and socio-economic groups and affects 15 million babies and their moms of all ages every year around the globe. No one currently seems to be able to predict which women will deliver their babies early and which will carry their babies to term.
New research indicates that a simple blood test identifiying biomarkers in the mother’s blood could be a cost-effective and accurate predictor of which pregnancies will end prematurely. Moreover, this given test is proving to be an accurate predictor of gestational age (as accurate as an ultrasound but at a lower cost).
Good stuff! If you have time to spare, I highly recommend you check out Visual Capitalist’s infographic entitled “The 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2019” which captures all Gates’ picks.