The 2022 Good Tech Awards | Tower Tech

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The yr 2022, on the earth of know-how, was certainly one of nice leaps and even higher stumbles.

The falls included among the most recognizable names within the business. Sam Bankman-Fried began the yr as the largest celeb in crypto, with a internet value of over $20 billion, and ends it as a disgraced outcast dealing with prison costs for fraud. Elon Musk began 2022 because the richest man on the earth, with a thriving electrical automobile firm and a reputation synonymous with success; he finally ends up greater than $100 billion poorer, because the embittered and beleaguered proprietor of a social media firm that appears to be ruining his life.

The know-how business additionally struggled with harsh macroeconomic situations, together with excessive inflation and rising rates of interest. Because the business’s decade of hypergrowth got here to an in depth, startups died, tech giants slashed earnings and laid off staff, and traders’ goals of a brand new cryptographic web generally known as “web3” light into obscurity. .

However focusing solely on what went flawed dangers lacking out on the numerous noble, good, and socially worthwhile tech tasks which have made headway this yr.

For a number of years now, I’ve highlighted some of these tasks in my annual Good Tech Awards column. These should not essentially applied sciences that I am certain will enhance the world with out inflicting any issues. They’re instruments that I consider might enhance the world or assist deal with thorny societal challenges. A few of them might additionally go fairly awry, if mismanaged or harmfully co-opted.

There have been many to select from this yr. That is what made the ultimate minimize.

Essentially the most eye-catching technological breakthrough of the yr, by a major margin, was the rise of “generative AI,” a time period for the brand new breed of synthetic intelligence functions, skilled on huge quantities of knowledge, that may create new media objects. the nothing. .

This yr, AI imagers like DALL-E 2, Secure Diffusion, and Midjourney wowed customers (together with me) with their creations and sparked a Cambrian explosion of ultra-capable new AI instruments. In the previous couple of weeks, ChatGPT, a text-generating AI constructed by OpenAI, turned a viral sensation (and each instructor’s worst nightmare) when it started churning out time period papers, unique poetry, and dealing code snippets.

Some credit score for the rise of generative AI ought to go to Google, which created a lot of the underlying know-how. However this yr, Google (which has stored most of its AI experiments non-public, a lot to its current chagrin) was outperformed by OpenAI, in addition to the creators of Midjourney and Secure Diffusion, all of whom launched public-facing merchandise that allowed hundreds of thousands of individuals to expertise generative AI for themselves.

The ultimate results of the generative AI are nonetheless unknown. Some folks argue that these apps will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, whereas others argue that they are going to be a boon to human creativity. However whether or not you are AI bullish or bearish, this yr’s advances imply we’re now not debating theoretical prices and advantages: the instruments have arrived, and now we are able to determine the right way to use them.

I do know that I do know. Placing a crypto mission on a “good tech” record in 2022 looks like placing credit score default swaps on a “cool monetary improvements” record in 2008.

However whereas the crypto business went right into a tailspin this yr, wiping out trillions of {dollars} in worth and leaving many traders empty-handed, there was at the very least one silver lining. In September, Ethereum, the community behind the second most precious cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, accomplished what is named “the merger”: a hulking mission years within the making to shift Ethereum from a blockchain-consuming type of a lot vitality generally known as “proof of labor” to a a lot greener type of blockchain generally known as “proof of stake”.

The change, which crypto builders in comparison with attempting to alter an airplane engine in midair, was a convincing success, reducing the vitality required to energy Ethereum by greater than 99 p.c. (Nonetheless, it didn’t improve the value of the cryptocurrency, Ether, which ended the yr down practically 70 p.c.)

Whereas 2022 was a horrible yr for startup fundraising on the whole, it was an awesome yr for local weather tech startups, elevating billions of {dollars} to convey climate-friendly applied sciences to market.

Kevin Roose and Casey Newton host Exhausting Fork, a podcast that is smart of the quickly altering world of know-how. Subscribe and pay attention.

There are too many promising local weather tech startups to call, and to be sincere I do not know sufficient about local weather science to say which of them have the perfect probability of success, however a couple of that caught my eye this yr had been Dwelling Carbon, Twelve, and BeeHero.

Dwelling Carbon, a three-year-old California startup, is genetically engineering timber and different vegetation to seize and retailer extra carbon from the ambiance. These GM supertrees, the corporate claims, develop bigger and quicker than regular timber and may survive in soils with concentrations of metals that may be poisonous to different vegetation.

Berkeley, California-based Twelve makes use of a novel electrochemical course of to transform carbon dioxide into industrial merchandise as various as sun shades and jet gasoline. The corporate raised a $130 million spherical of financing this yr and struck offers with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Procter & Gamble.

Began in Israel in 2017, BeeHero is utilizing new know-how to deal with issues dealing with some of the essential components of our world meals provide: bees. Bees pollinate greater than a 3rd of all crops, however they’re dying at an alarming fee, elevating fears of meals shortages. To handle this, BeeHero developed a “precision pollination platform,” principally a bee-tracking sensor system that enables industrial beekeepers to watch the well being and productiveness of their hives in actual time. The corporate raised a $42 million Collection B (Bee Collection?) spherical this yr from traders together with Basic Mills.

Nuclear fusion, a type of emission-free energy technology that has lengthy been seen because the “holy grail of vitality,” took some large steps towards actuality this yr.

The most important fusion information of the yr got here simply weeks in the past when scientists on the Nationwide Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory in California crossed an essential threshold generally known as “ignition,” making a fusion response that generated extra vitality than what was wanted to provide That breakthrough was hailed by officers, together with Jennifer M. Granholm, the vitality secretary, who referred to as it a “historic achievement.”

Many startups have additionally been shifting away from the merger. One, Helion Vitality, has raised a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} from well-known traders, together with Sam Altman, Dustin Moskovitz and Peter Thiel, to create reasonably priced mass-market fusion know-how. helion says he plans to create energy with its subsequent fusion reactor, Polaris, by 2024. One other firm, Commonwealth Fusion Programs, which spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how in 2018, is utilizing an array of highly effective magnets to energy its prototype fusion machine in exterior of Boston, and plans to have it up and operating by 2025.

Consultants have warned that regardless of the most recent advances, reasonably priced fusion energy will not be broadly out there for years. However this yr, each the private and non-private sectors supplied a glimpse of a merger-driven future.

If 2022 was the yr social media died, it was additionally the yr startups started attempting to recapture what had made social media enjoyable within the first place.

One app that I’ve liked utilizing this yr is Locket. It is a quite simple premise: a widget that you simply set up in your smartphone’s dwelling display, making a sort of digital picture body that your closest associates and family members can add pictures to.

Locket was created by Matt Moss, a younger developer who needed a strategy to ship pictures to his long-distance girlfriend; This yr, the app rapidly grew to hundreds of thousands of customers, raised a serious spherical of funding, and gained a Tradition Impression Award from Apple. There aren’t any filters, groomed influencers, information assortment schemes or algorithmic sources in Locket – it is only a easy and straightforward strategy to share pictures along with your family members.

My spouse and I began utilizing Locket this yr to share pictures of our son, in a means that we would not have to go looking by means of textual content strings or big picture albums to search out them later. It’s not the technological product that I’ve used most frequently, or the one which I consider will create the best internet good for society. However it’s enjoyable, uncomplicated, and respectful of its customers—three qualities that extra tech merchandise ought to aspire to.

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The 2022 Good Tech Awards