Which emerging technologies will become the next game-changers in the international arena? In this episode, we give an overview of three technologies could have significant impacts throughout the world: space-based solar power; artificial intelligence; and voice recognition and computer-based communication.

Space-Based Solar Power

The United States, China, and Japan are spearheading research and development efforts to create space-based solar energy collectors. These satellites would collect high intensity, uninterrupted solar radiation in Earth’s orbit and transmit the energy via microwave or laser beam to ground stations on earth. Although these projects require massive investment and time commitments, China and Japan are both developing projects that would create 1-gigawatt of energy output — the equivalent of a nuclear power plant.

If they can overcome financial and engineering hurdles, these solar-based power concepts can provide vast quantities of safe, renewable energy to help replace carbon-based energy production.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is a machine that uses neural networks to perform cognitive functions similar to human brains, such as learning and problem solving. With billions in investments in countries like the United States, China, and Japan, AI has created machines, such as IBM’s Watson, that can revolutionize big data computing. These machines can contribute to productivity growth in economies, help doctors more quickly diagnose patients, and even increase effectiveness of teaching in schools. At the same time, critics suggest that AI’s expansion could lead to job loss, growing economic inequality, and other unintended consequences.

Voice Recognition and Computer-Based Communication

A company in Massachusetts is making headway giving voices to the over 10 million people living with voicelessness. VocaliD has created a “voice bank” of donated voices for those who cannot speak. A three-to-four hour recording can cover all of the different combinations of sound for a language. Currently, VocaliD has recorded over 14,000 speakers from over 110 countries to contribute 6 million sentences to its repository.

These three technologies are a small sampling of the vast number of innovative technologies that will alter our personal, social, economic, and political realities in the coming years.

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