The Biggest Tech Breakthroughs of 2022

Posted on Wednesday, December 28, 2022
by Andrew Abbott

AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott

With the ongoing war in Ukraine, the midterm elections, and the highest inflation and crime rates in a generation, it is perhaps no surprise that some major scientific achievements this year have received relatively sparse coverage given their potential to radically reshape the world we live in. Here are a few tech breakthroughs from 2022 that could make major headlines in 2023 and beyond.

Net-Positive Fusion Reaction

What could ultimately prove to be one of the most significant technological achievements of the 21st century came late in 2022 when scientists at the U.S. National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced that, for the first time in history, a laboratory had created a net-positive nuclear fusion reaction.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, nuclear power plants have used fission reactions, or the splitting of atoms, to produce energy. The process, while statistically safer than most other energy production methods, has led to a few high-profile disasters, and produces large quantities of highly radioactive waste.

Conversely, fusion reactions, which are what power our sun, involve combining atoms together. In addition to producing exponentially more energy than fission reactions, fusion reactions produce virtually no radioactive by-products. Scientists have been working to achieve a net-positive fusion reaction for decades. Until now, fusion reactions in a lab have required more energy to create than they have produced.

Commercially viable fusion energy is still likely decades away. But it is no exaggeration to say that a network of fusion reactors could fundamentally reshape our world, providing an unlimited supply of reliable, cheap, clean energy.

Artificial Intelligence Takes a Major Step Forward

For decades, automation and robotic technology have replaced manufacturing and similar jobs dependent on physical labor. However, this year saw the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to replace white-collar positions as well, from financial modeling to script writing.

A prime example of this was the release of ChatGPT, a text-based artificial intelligence platform which was made available to the public for the first time. The website not only answers general questions, but can also write full papers, analyze program code, and even write creative stories. On December 12th, Fox News host Steve Hilton opened his show with a compelling monologue created entirely by ChatGPT.

Similar AI programs have also revolutionized visual arts. The app DALL-E 2, released by OpenAI, creates original artwork based on no more than a sentence. The user types into a prompt what they would like to see visualized. Popular examples include “an astronaut riding a unicorn through space” or a simple “warm meadow.” Another new app, Lensa, creates stunning comic-inspired self-portraits in minutes from just a handful of “selfies.”

Both systems have generated significant controversy, however. Many artists feel these platforms make their work obsolete and, in some cases, seem to use “borrowed” aspects from existing art.

Self-Driving Cars Go Mainstream

Self-driving technology has been around for a few years now, but 2022 saw self-driving cars make major leaps into mainstream use. In November, Tesla founder Elon Musk announced a beta version of a new “full self-driving” software that would make Tesla genuinely automated. General Motors has also launched self-driving taxi system known as “Cruise.” For the first time in history, people will be able to hop in their car, plug in an address, and arrive there without touching the steering wheel or gas pedal.

Brain Computer Chips Successfully Tested in Chimps

A major advancement in self-driving cars wasn’t the only significant achievement for Elon Musk in 2022. The eccentric billionaire also announced this year that his “Neuralink” – an implantable brain-computer interface – had successfully completed test trials in chimpanzees and would be ready for human testing within the next six months. In theory, a Neuralink chip, once implanted in the human brain, will allow the recipient unprecedented access to technology without using any additional device.

During the unveiling, Musk showed a Chimpanzee with Neuralink that could type on a screen in English using the telepathic link between its mind, the Neuralink device, and a wireless monitor. Musk has touted the potential benefits for disabled individuals, suggesting that they could use the device to control robotic limbs or run a computer.

However, critics note that his device is currently being investigated for the notably high number of chimps that died during testing trials. Nevertheless, this technology still represents a major inflection point in the evolution of man’s relation to technology.

A Glimpse Into the Birth of the Universe

In July, NASA captured the imagination of the world by releasing the first images from the James Webb telescope. One of the snapshots, which appeared only as a blurry red sphere, shows light that left its source more than 13 billion years ago, from near the very beginning of the universe.

As more photos come in with astonishing clarity, scientists will likely be able to better piece together the story of how our universe was created. In effect, the James Webb telescope is the closest we will ever get to a time machine, allowing us to look back billions of years into the past.

Each of these new technologies has the potential to alter the course of history and dramatically broaden our understanding of the world around us. While the full impact of a scientific breakthrough is often not felt for years or even decades, we can even now appreciate how such developments might shape the world that future generations will inherit.

Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.