By Bill Gates .Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
We would hope to see technologies that center almost entirely on well-being . Everyone think the brilliant minds of the future will focus on more metaphysical questions: How do we make people happier? How do we create meaningful connections? How do we help everyone live a fulfilling life?
We would love to see these questions shape the 2039 list, because it would mean that we’ve successfully fought back disease (and dealt with climate change). I can’t imagine a greater sign of progress than that. For now, though, the innovations driving change are a mix of things that extend life and things that make it better. My picks reflect both. Each one gives me a different reason to be optimistic for the future.
My selections include amazing new tools that will one day save lives, from simple blood tests that diagnose cancer to toilets that destroy deadly pathogens. I’m equally excited by how other technologies on the list will improve our lives. Wearable health monitors like the wrist-based EKG will warn heart patients of impending problems, while others let diabetics not only track glucose levels but manage their disease. Advanced nuclear reactors could provide carbon-free, safe, and secure energy to the world.
One of my choices even offers us a peek at a future where society’s primary goal is personal fulfillment. Among many other applications, AI-driven personal agents might one day make your email inbox more manageable—something that sounds trivial until you consider what possibilities open up when you have more free time.
The thirty minutes you used to spend reading emails could be spent doing other things. I know some people would use that time to get more work done—but I hope most would use it for more fulfilling pursuits, like connecting with a friend over coffee, helping your child with her homework, or even volunteering in your community.
This is a future worth working toward.