The 2022 Good Tech Awards | Tech Fluent

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The yr 2022, on the planet of expertise, was certainly one of nice leaps and even better stumbles.

The falls included a number of the most recognizable names within the trade. Sam Bankman-Fried began the yr as the most important superstar in crypto, with a web value of over $20 billion, and ends it as a disgraced outcast dealing with felony expenses for fraud. Elon Musk began 2022 because the richest man on the planet, 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 expertise trade additionally struggled with harsh macroeconomic situations, together with excessive inflation and rising rates of interest. Because the trade’s decade of hypergrowth got here to an in depth, startups died, tech giants slashed earnings and laid off employees, and buyers’ goals of a brand new cryptographic web generally known as “web3” light into obscurity. .

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

For a number of years now, I’ve highlighted a lot of these tasks in my annual Good Tech Awards column. These usually are not essentially applied sciences that I am certain will enhance the world with out inflicting any issues. They’re instruments that I imagine might enhance the world or assist tackle 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 lower.

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, Steady 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 few weeks, ChatGPT, a text-generating AI constructed by OpenAI, grew to become a viral sensation (and each trainer’s worst nightmare) when it started churning out time period papers, authentic 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 expertise. However this yr, Google (which has stored most of its AI experiments personal, a lot to its latest chagrin) was outperformed by OpenAI, in addition to the creators of Midjourney and Steady Diffusion, all of whom launched public-facing merchandise that allowed tens of millions 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 tens of millions 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 will resolve tips on how to use them.

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

However whereas the crypto trade went right into a tailspin this yr, wiping out trillions of {dollars} in worth and leaving many buyers empty-handed, there was no less than one silver lining. In September, Ethereum, the community behind the second most useful cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, accomplished what is called “the merger”: a hulking challenge 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 making an attempt to alter an airplane engine in midair, was a powerful success, chopping the vitality required to energy Ethereum by greater than 99 %. (Nonetheless, it didn’t improve the value of the cryptocurrency, Ether, which ended the yr down practically 70 %.)

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

Kevin Roose and Casey Newton host Laborious Fork, a podcast that is smart of the quickly altering world of expertise. Subscribe and pay attention.

There are too many promising local weather tech startups to call, and to be trustworthy I do not know sufficient about local weather science to say which of them have the most effective probability of success, however just a few that caught my eye this yr have been Residing Carbon, Twelve, and BeeHero.

Residing Carbon, a three-year-old California startup, is genetically engineering timber and different vegetation to seize and retailer extra carbon from the environment. These GM supertrees, the corporate claims, develop bigger and sooner than regular timber and may survive in soils with concentrations of metals that might 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 assorted as sun shades and jet gas. 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 expertise to deal with issues dealing with one of the crucial necessary components of our international meals provide: bees. Bees pollinate greater than a 3rd of all crops, however they’re dying at an alarming price, elevating fears of meals shortages. To deal with this, BeeHero developed a “precision pollination platform,” mainly 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 Sequence B (Bee Sequence?) spherical this yr from buyers 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 largest 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 necessary 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 transferring away from the merger. One, Helion Vitality, has raised a whole lot of tens of millions of {dollars} from well-known buyers, together with Sam Altman, Dustin Moskovitz and Peter Thiel, to create reasonably priced mass-market fusion expertise. helion says he plans to create energy with its subsequent fusion reactor, Polaris, by 2024. One other firm, Commonwealth Fusion Methods, 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 outdoors of Boston, and plans to have it up and working by 2025.

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

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

One app that I’ve beloved utilizing this yr is Locket. It is a quite simple premise: a widget that you just set up in your smartphone’s dwelling display, making a form of digital photograph body that your closest buddies and family members can add images to.

Locket was created by Matt Moss, a younger developer who needed a method to ship images to his long-distance girlfriend; This yr, the app rapidly grew to tens of millions of customers, raised a significant spherical of funding, and received a Tradition Affect Award from Apple. There aren’t any filters, groomed influencers, knowledge assortment schemes or algorithmic sources in Locket – it is only a easy and simple method to share images together with your family members.

My spouse and I began utilizing Locket this yr to share images of our son, in a method that we would not have to go looking by textual content strings or enormous photograph albums to search out them later. It’s not the technological product that I’ve used most frequently, or the one which I imagine will create the best web good for society. But it surely’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