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Vaclav Smil: The 12 improvements we have to save humanity and the planet



Which innovations ought to we prioritise to safeguard the atmosphere and human well being and happiness? From higher batteries and photovoltaic paint to a common vaccine precursor, Vaclav Smil shares his want listing


3 January 2023


I HAVE by no means been a fan of science fiction. I’m extremely suspicious of any too-good-to-be-true claims about “epoch-making” discoveries. However I’ve additionally written extensively in regards to the transformative impacts of innovations, from artificial ammonia for fertiliser manufacturing and semiconductor gadgets in electronics to the 5-in-1 vaccine, which immunises in opposition to a variety of ailments. What’s extra, it appears apparent to me that we’d like new elementary advances like these to deal with the multitude of financial, social and environmental challenges we presently face. I deal with potential advances in my new e-book, Invention and Innovation: A short historical past of hype and failure.

Figuring out the highest priorities for attainable breakthroughs isn’t straightforward, not least as a result of there may be a lot room for enchancment. Take into account power. Invoice Gates has famous that: “Half the technology needed to get to zero emissions either doesn’t exist yet or is too expensive for much of the world to afford.” You would say the identical about each scientific and technical class. Furthermore, any listing of essentially the most fascinating innovations is certain to be subjective. When you see mine as quite conservative, I plead responsible: there isn’t any faster-than-light journey, no terraforming of different planets.

As a substitute, my high 12 improvements, which I set out right here, cowl a variety of points that we urgently want to handle. They give attention to areas that can have the most important affect on human well-being and the atmosphere and the place there may be already information to construct on. My want listing even contains three modifications that each one of us can get to work on proper now (see “Bigger and better”).

A common vaccine precursor

Humanity …

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