World Economic Forum Emerging Technologies: The Human Cell Atlas

Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes a diverse range of breakthrough technologies, chosen for their potential to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet. These technologies were also chosen for their level of maturity that would enable widespread take-up in the coming 3-5 years. The technologies were selected by the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network and Global Future Councils in collaboration with Scientific American and its Board of Advisors’ (from World Economic Forum, weforum.org, June 26, 2017).

Number 5 on the list is a project called ‘The Human Cell Atlas’. Although personalization infuses many parts of our lives – shopping, internet search, social media, advertising, etc. – the make-up of the human body still remains a mystery. However, there is an international collaboration, backed by big-science entities such as The Sanger Institute and MIT, which is aimed at deciphering the human body, cell by cell. The effort was kick-started by one of the masters of personalization – Mark Zuckerberg – under the Chan Zuckerberg initiative. To quote the MIT Technology Review, “The objective is to construct the first comprehensive “cell atlas,” or map of human cells, a technological marvel that should comprehensively reveal, for the first time, what human bodies are actually made of ….” and the World Economic Forum states that the end product of the initiative “….will be an invaluable tool for improving and personalizing health care……”.

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