February 25, 2024

2022 is one of the big leaps forward in tech and one of the bigger missteps.

The drop includes some of the biggest names in the industry. Sam Bankman-Fried started the year as the biggest celebrity in cryptocurrency, with a net worth of more than $20 billion, and ended the year as a disgraced pariah facing criminal fraud charges. Elon Musk, the richest man in the world by 2022, owns a thriving electric car company and a success synonymous with success; as the bitter and troubled boss of a social media company that seems to be ruining his life The resulting fortunes have shrunk by more than $100 billion.

The tech sector is also struggling with tough macroeconomic conditions, including high inflation and rising interest rates. Investors’ dreams of a new encrypted internet dubbed “web3” have faded into oblivion as a decade of hypergrowth in the sector winds down, start-ups fold and tech giants slash perks and lay off workers.

But focusing only on what went wrong risks missing the many noble, smart, and socially valuable tech projects that have progressed this year.

For several years, I’ve highlighted these types of projects in my annual Excellence in Technology Awards column. These aren’t necessarily technologies that I’m sure will improve the world without causing any problems.they are tools i believe in Can Improve the world, or help solve tough social challenges. Some of them can also turn out to be really bad if mismanaged or absorbed in harmful ways.

There are plenty to choose from this year. This is the reason for the final crop.

The most notable technological breakthrough this year has been the boom in “generative artificial intelligence” — the term for a new class of artificial intelligence applications trained on vast amounts of data to create new media objects out of thin air.

This year, AI image generators like DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion, and Midjourney dazzled users (including me) with their creations and sparked a Cambrian explosion of new, super-powerful AI tools. In recent weeks, ChatGPT, the text-generating AI built by OpenAI, has made waves (and every teacher’s worst nightmare) when it started producing term papers, original poems, and code snippets for work.

The generative AI boom owes much to Google, which created many of the underlying technologies. But this year, Google (which has lately kept most of its AI experiments to its chagrin) has the backing of OpenAI and the makers of Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, all of which have released public-facing products that allow millions of people to use Experience generative artificial intelligence for yourself.

The ultimate effect of generative AI is still unknown. Some believe these apps will destroy millions of jobs, while others believe they will benefit human creativity. But whether you’re an AI optimist or pessimist, this year’s advances mean we’re no longer arguing about theoretical costs and benefits—the tools are here, and we can now decide how to use them.

I know I know. Putting a crypto project on the “good tech” list in 2022 feels like adding credit default swaps to the “cool financial innovation” list in 2008.

But while the crypto industry has plummeted this year — wiping trillions of dollars in value and leaving many investors empty-handed — there is at least one bright spot. In September, ethereum, the network behind the second most valuable cryptocurrency after bitcoin, completed what it called a “merger” — a sprawling, years-in-the-making project to transform ethereum from a power-hungry The transition from the traditional form of blockchain known as “proof of work” to a greener form of blockchain known as “proof of stake”.

Compared to trying to change an airplane engine in mid-air, the switch by the cryptocurrency developer has been wildly successful and reduces the amount of energy required to power ethereum by more than 99%. (However, it did little to boost the price of the cryptocurrency ether, which fell nearly 70% at the end of the year.)

While 2022 is generally a bad year for startup funding, it will be a bumper year for climate tech startups raising billions to bring climate-friendly technologies to market .

Kevin Roose and Casey Newton are the hosts of Hard Fork, a podcast that provides insight into the rapidly changing world of technology. Subscribe and listen.

There are too many promising climate tech start-ups to name – I honestly don’t know enough about climate science to judge which ones have the best chance of success – but the ones that caught my eye this year were Living Carbon, Ten Two and BeeHero.

activated carbon, a three-year-old California startup, is genetically engineering trees and other plants to capture and store more carbon from the atmosphere.These GM super trees will grow, the company claims Bigger and faster than normal trees And can survive in soil with metal concentrations that are toxic to other plants.

twelveThe Berkeley, California-based company is using a novel electrochemical process to convert carbon dioxide into a variety of industrial products, from sunglasses to jet Raised $130 million in funding This year, it struck deals with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Procter & Gamble.

Launched in Israel in 2017, BeeHero is using new technology to solve problems facing one of the most important parts of our global food supply: honeybees. Bees pollinate more than a third of crops but are dying at an alarming rate, raising fears of food shortages. To solve this problem, BeeHero has developed a “Precision Pollination Platform” — basically a bee tracking sensor system that allows industrial beekeepers to monitor the health and productivity of their hives in real Raised $42M Series B (Bee series?) This year’s round of financing, investors include General Mills.

Nuclear fusion, a zero-emissions form of energy production long considered the “holy grail of energy,” took several important steps toward making it happen this year.

The biggest fusion news of the year came just a few weeks ago, when scientists at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California crossed a major threshold known as “ignition,” creating a process that produces more energy than is produced. A fusion reaction that requires more energy. The breakthrough was hailed by officials, including Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, as a “landmark achievement.”

Numerous start-ups have also been working hard on nuclear fusion. One of them is Helion Energy, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from high-profile investors including Sam Altman, Dustin Moskovitz and Peter Thiel to develop affordable mass-market fusion technology. Helion say it plans Create energy with its next fusion reactor, Polaris, by 2024.Another company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, spun out of MIT in 2018, is using Powerful Magnet Array Powering its prototype fusion machine out of Boston, it plans to have it up and running by 2025.

Experts remind Despite the latest breakthrough, affordable fusion energy may not be widely available for many years. But this year, both the public and private sectors have given us a glimpse into the future of fusion power.

If 2022 is the year social media dies, it’s also the year startups start trying to recapture what made social media fun in the first place.

One app I’ve enjoyed using this year is locket. It’s a pretty simple premise — a widget that installs on your smartphone’s home screen, creating a sort of digital photo frame into which your closest friends and loved ones can upload photos.

Locket was created by Matt Moss, a young developer who wanted a way to send photos to his long-distance girlfriend; this year, the app quickly grew to millions of users, raised a large sum of money with Received the Apple Cultural Impact Award。 There are no filters, grooming influencers, data collection schemes or algorithmic feeds on Locket – it’s just a simple, no-frills way to share photos with your loved ones.

My wife and I started using Locket this year to share photos of our kids in a way that doesn’t require us to dig through text links or giant photo albums to find them later. It’s not the tech product I use the most, nor is it the product that I think will create the most net benefit to society. But it’s fun, simple, and respectful of users—three qualities that more tech products should aspire to.

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