March 1, 2024

How Technology Can Drive the Transition to a Superior Future

According to a report produced by Force for Good, a project of the F4G Foundation, a non-profit limited liability company incorporated under the laws of England and Wales, "technology can provide the means to create a sustainable, secure, and superior world. It can help us finish the job of liberating the remaining populations across the world, providing inclusion for all in finance, education, healthcare, housing, dignified work, and a technology enabled world."

The report, entitled Technology Driving the Transition to a Superior Future, includes a letter authored by Ketan Patel, chair of Force for Good's advisory council. Mr. Patel points out that the 2023 "report identified 19 technologies that the largest 100 tech companies were pursuing in a bid to lead the world into a new era. We found that these companies had universally embraced ESG, were actively making their operations across the globe sustainable, and the leaders among them were making a positive impact on society at large." Mr. Patel also notes the "19 technologies identified continue to underpin the efforts of the largest and most resourceful companies. Importantly, what is clear is that a small sub-set of these technologies are the most powerful arbiters of the future, and these are AI, quantum computing, nanotech, genetics, and fusion." 

The 19 technologies include artificial intelligence, big data analytics, quantum computing, internet of things (IoT), robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, smart grid, renewables, energy storage, next generation nuclear (fusion), eMobility, virtualization (VR, ER, AR, XR, MR), blockchain, material science, 3D printing, nanotechnology, and space technology.

Below are the report's key messages:
  • Existing technologies enabled by AI can close nearly 50% of the SDG gap, if scaled and deployed globally, and can help position the world for the transition to the Information Age; this can bridge the otherwise unsurmountable capital of US$175 trillion needed for the SDGs, and a shortfall of US$137 trillion.
  • The tech industry is the critical player required to take the lead given its expertise, products, influence and ability to access capital, rolling out technology at scale across the world and driving the world into the next era; three of the ten initiatives identified - universal connectivity, leveraging generative AI across the SDGs, and mass financial inclusion - together contribute to nearly 30% of the SDGs and lay the foundations for levelling up the world.
  • 19 core technologies have been identified as the focus of the top 100 tech companies in competing for the future and are also the focus of geopolitical competition between countries and power blocs, and their control is increasingly seen as a key strategic asset for nation states.
  • While the US has the clear lead from a macro and technology perspective, China has drawn level with the EU on key macro fronts and built a strong position in many of the core technologies, the EU has the biggest market which positions it as a rule setter for others, and India is now rising to take a position among these power blocs; US internal political divisions and politicization of the transition among other issues represent noteworthy risks to its leadership position and ability to lead the world into the next era.
  • The risks of a dangerous transition including global climate, migration and socio-political-economic disasters are heightened unless the two-thirds of the world that were not material beneficiaries of the Industrial Age, predominantly in the Global South and also left behind in advanced nations are included; a post transition world, built on a more inclusive platform, can be powered by the identified core technologies, and a suite of others currently under development including fusion, gene-editing and nano-tech, creating a more secure, sustainable and superior future.

The report also presents AI's impact on each SDG:

SDG #1: No Poverty
  • Predictive analytics to identify regions at risk of poverty.
  • AI-driven agricultural technologies to increase crop yields for small farmers.
  • Automating and improving the efficiency of aid distribution.
SDG #2: Zero Hunger
  • Precision agriculture for optimizing food production and reducing waste.
  • AI in supply chain management to reduce food spoilage.
  • Development of AI-based nutritional planning tools.
SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being
  • AI in diagnostics to improve disease detection and treatment.
  • Personalized medicine for tailored healthcare solutions.
  • AI-driven research in drug discovery and epidemic tracking.
SDG #4: Quality Education
  • Adaptive learning platforms for personalized education.
  • AI tools for language translation to overcome education barriers.
  • Analyzing educational data to improve teaching methods.
SDG #5: Gender Equality
  • AI algorithms to identify and reduce gender biases in hiring.
  • AI-driven platforms to support women entrepreneurs.
  • Analyzing data to better understand and address gender disparities.
SDG #6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • AI for monitoring and predicting water quality issues.
  • Optimization of water distribution systems in urban areas.
  • AI in wastewater treatment processes for better efficiency.
SDG #7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • AI in optimizing renewable energy sources.
  • Predictive maintenance for energy infrastructure.
  • Enhancing energy efficiency in buildings and industries.
SDG #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • AI-driven job market analytics for skill development.
  • Automation to increase productivity and create new job opportunities.
  • AI tools for small businesses to access markets and finance.
SDG #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • AI in predictive maintenance for industrial machinery.
  • Facilitating research and development through AI-driven insights.
  • Enhancing logistics and supply chain efficiencies.
SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities
  • AI in financial services to provide credit access to the underserved.
  • AI-driven educational tools for marginalized communities.
  • Enhancing accessibility technologies for people with disabilities.
SDG #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • AI in urban planning for sustainable and efficient cities.
  • AI-driven traffic management and public transport optimization.
  • Enhancing public safety through smart surveillance systems.
SDG #12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • AI in supply chains to promote ethical sourcing and reduce waste.
  • AI tools for lifecycle assessment of products.
  • Automation in recycling processes.
SDG #13: Climate Action
  • AI in climate modeling and forecasting.
  • AI-driven solutions for carbon footprint reduction.
  • Enhancing the efficiency of climate change mitigation strategies.
SDG #14: Life Below Water
  • AI for monitoring and protecting ocean biodiversity.
  • Predictive analytics for sustainable fishing practices.
  • AI in studying and mitigating the effects of ocean acidification.
SDG #15: Life On Land
  • AI in wildlife tracking and habitat protection.
  • Predictive tools for forest fire prevention.
  • AI-driven land-use planning for sustainable development.
SDG #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • AI in crime prediction and prevention.
  • Enhancing legal research and access to justice through AI tools.
  • AI-driven systems for monitoring and preventing corruption.
SDG #17: Partnerships For the Goals
  • AI to analyze and optimize international aid.
  • Facilitating cross-border collaboration through AI-driven platforms.
  • Enhancing global data sharing and analysis for informed decision-making.

In its conclusion, the report asserts that "Technology is the catalyst for a civilizational shift in the world. As such, competition for technology leadership has become a matter of national security. However, in the absence of raising the Global South, the continued progress of the rich nations of the Global North is at risk." Moreover, "The SDGs can be solved with existing solutions and deliver a more equitable platform from which technology can build a far superior future. In the transition to a new civilization built on information and a new generation of technologies, the world is about to enter a whole new era that has the potential to deliver peace, prosperity, and freedom to all. The tech industry has a critical role to play in building this superior future."

What are you recommendations on how technology can drive to a superior future?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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