24 July 2009

Future Frontiers ~ Emerging MIT Action Themes

The final Part VI of my 2006 piece on The Innovation Institute was my personal perspective on cross-cutting and promising trends and directions for MIT. Titled Future Frontiers: Emerging MIT Research Themes, I asserted that five areas especially stand out...
  1. Tiny Technologies -- the analysis and synthesis of ever more sophisticated structures, functions, and systems at length scales ranging from micro-through-nanometers.
  2. Systems Biotechnology -- the analysis (and ultimately synthesis) of complex biological phenomena, processes, pathways, and systems.
  3. Neurotechnology -- the discovery (and ultimately design) of neurological sensing and control functions, and the development of neuro-diagnostics and therapeutics.
  4. Systems Sociology -- bringing engineering tools and methods to the analysis (and potentially synthesis) of complex, real-world social and socio-technical systems.
  5. Global Innovations -- understanding root causes and developing deep, distributed, sustainable solutions to the most pressing and persistent problems of humanity worldwide.
I still agree these are each compelling, but it is worth emphasizing how intermingled each of these themes are. For instance, some very compelling Global Innovations work at the Institute is in the realm of Clean Energy, but the underlying discoveries and inventions are Tiny Technologies, including new catalysts, materials, and more. Or other compelling Global Innovations work is in the realm of Healthcare Delivery in emerging markets where the essential solutions emerge from reality mining patterns of social networking and the movement of people, goods, and money, all elements of Systems Sociology. MIT is a vibrant and ever-changing place, so for those interested in emerging themes here, be sure to stay tuned to the excellent science journalist MIT News pages, our magazine of innovation, Technology Review, and the latest direct updates from labs, centers, programs, departments, and more!

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