Technology is all around us, expanding the limits of what is possible. but every once in a while, some invention or insight has an outsize effect; it creates a large discontinuity, dividing history into “before” and “after.” The steam engine, the transistor, the World Wide Web—each of these ideas seemed to emerge from nowhere to change our world in fundamental ways. Which key technology will arise fromtoday’s vast cauldron of innovation to become tomorrow’s world changing idea? It’s impossible to know, of course, but we know it will come.
Here are 10 candidates—10 new ideas and technologies that could rewrite the rules. What if we could build robots that turn waste into fuel? Or harness the power of video games (yes, video games) to make ourselves do the right thing? What if the “junk” in our DNA is actually as important as our genes? What if insects hold the secret to fending off cyberattacks? Welcome to the World Changing Ideas 2010 edition. —The Editors