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The Promise of Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development

Edited by Homi Kharas, John W. McArthur, and Izumi Ohno

Harnessing technology for a better future

Looking into the future is always difficult and often problematic—but sometimes it’s useful to imagine what innovations might resolve today’s problems and make tomorrow better. In this book, 15 distinguished international experts examine how technology will affect the human condition and natural world within the next ten years. Their stories reflect major ambitions for what the future could bring and offer a glimpse into the possibilities for achieving the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

The authors were asked to envision future success in their respective fields, given the current state of technology and potential progress over the next decade. The central question driving their research: What are likely technological advances that could contribute  to the Sustainable Development Goals at major scale, affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people or substantial geographies around the globe.

One overall takeaway is that gradualist approaches will not achieve those goals by 2030. Breakthroughs will be necessary in science, in the development of new products and services, and in institutional systems. Each of the experts responded with stories that reflect big ambitions for what the future may bring. Their stories are not projections or forecasts as to what will happen; they are reasoned and reasonable conjectures about what could happen. The editors’ intent is to provide a glimpse into the possibilities for the future of sustainable development.

At a time when many people worry about stalled progress on the economic, social, and environmental challenges of sustainable development, Breakthrough is a reminder that the promise of a better future is within our grasp, across a range of domains. It will interest anyone who wonders about the world’s economic, social, and environmental future.

Chapters and Contributors

1. Breakthroughs: Why We Need Them for Sustainable Development
Homi Kharas, John W. McArthur, and Izumi Ohno

2. Breakthrough Technologies for Pandemic Preparedness
Yolanda Botti-Lodovico and Pardis Sabeti

3. Fixing the Real “World Wide Web”: Breakthroughs at the Interface of Food, Agriculture, and Large-Scale Computation
Zachary Bogue

4. Too Cheap to Meter: The Promise of Unstored Solar Power
Vijay Modi

5. Interspecies Money
Jonathan Ledgard

6. Predictable Disasters: AI and the Future of Crisis Response
Tarek Ghani and Grant Gordon

7. How AgriTech Is Transforming Traditional Agriculture in Emerging Markets: “Think Big, Act Fast, Start Small”
Lesly Goh

8. Eyes on the Planet: Toward Zero Deforestation
Hiroaki Okonogi, Eiji Yamada, and Takahiro Morita

9. Redefining the Smart City for Sustainable Development
Tomoyuki Naito

10. How Digital Systems Will Transform the Future of Money and Development
Tomicah Tillemann

11. A Short Story of Transmediary Platforms
Bright Simons

12. Unleashing Meaningful Breakthroughs
Ann Mei Chang


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