The phrase “world changing” is overused. Yet how else do you capture the full world-historical influence of an invention like the transistor, or the World Wide Web, or the cellular phone? Some ideas really do bend history. It's too early to know whether carbon-breathing batteries, ingestible robots, quantum satellites, and the seven other ideas described in these pages will have a similar effect. Most plans fail, and the biggest ideas tend to carry the greatest risk. But it doesn't take long for an idea to go from laughable to inevitable. And a few of those, of course, go on to become transformative.
This article was originally published with the title "2016 World Changing Ideas" in Scientific American 315, 6, 32-33 (December 2016)