Five ways technology will change our lives within five years

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“5 in 5” is IBM’s yearly predictions on ways in which technology will change our lives within the next five years

This year the predictions outlined has a focus on the process of material design and discovery as this will enable our sustainable future. Hence, the world’s demand for new materials is surging. We urgently need to design them to tackle pressing societal challenges addressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from securing good health to people around the world to fostering clean energy to keep our planet safe in the future – and so much more.

However, the process of material design and discovery is traditionally long and complex because the space of potential chemical element combinations is incredibly vast. In fact, there are more possible combinations than there are atoms in the universe.

Research shows that it takes approximately 10 years and upwards $10-$100 million to discover one new material with specific properties on average. At IBM, we aim to cut both the time-frame and costs by 90%. And we expect to make significant progress towards this ambitious goal within the next five years, which will positively impact every sector of our society and economy.

The five predictions on how technology will change over lives

1. Capturing and transforming CO2 to mitigate climate change

In the next five years, we will be able to capture CO2 from the air and transform it from the scourge of the environment into something useful. The goal is to make CO2 capture and reuse efficient enough to scale globally so we can significantly reduce the level of the harmful CO2 in the atmosphere and, ultimately, slow climate change.

2. Capturing and transforming CO2 to mitigate climate change

In the next five years, we will replicate nature’s ability to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrate-rich fertilizer, feeding the growing world while reducing the environmental impact of fertilizers. We’ll come up with an innovative solution to enable nitrogen fixation at a sustainable scale and help feed the world’s rapidly growing population.

3. Rethinking batteries before we have to rethink our world

In the next five years, we will discover new materials for safer and more environmentally-preferable batteries capable of supporting a renewable-based energy grid and more sustainable transportation. Many renewable energy sources are intermittent and require storage. The use of AI and quantum computing will result in batteries built with safer and more efficient materials for improved performance.

4. Sustainable materials, sustainable products, sustainable planet

In the next five years, we will advance materials manufacturing, enabling semiconductor manufacturers to improve the sustainability of their coveted products. Scientists will embrace a new approach to materials design that enables the tech industry to more quickly produce sustainable materials for the production of semiconductors and electronic devices.

5. Learning from our past for a healthier future

In the next five years, we aim to help facilitate the generation of treatments to aid physicians and front-line workers in combating novel, life-threatening viruses on a larger scale than is currently possible. A combination of AI, analytics and data can potentially help with the rapid analysis of real-world medical evidence to suggest new candidates for drug repurposing and speed clinical trials. In the future, these tools may reach widespread adoption across industries, effectively becoming one of the means of rapidly responding to global, life-threatening viruses.

But can we even get there? And how?

One thing is certain. To make these predictions a reality, we need to speed the discovery process and make it more effective. The good thing is that – for the first time in history – we have the right tools at our disposal to make it happen. These are e.g. AI, data augmentation using traditional and quantum computing, generative models, and laboratory automation accessible through the open, hybrid cloud!

You can read more about most of these technologies and how they can be utilized in a wide range of areas via this link. Ultimately, they have the potential to change the world for the better. And ultimately, the world needs society to take advantage of them to solve some of the most pressing challenges ahead!

If you have any further questions in regards to how technology can change our lives, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Research & Innovation Executive, IBM Research - IBM Watson

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