Technological progress will not let up

2022 is a year of rapid technological advancement following the previous year. The highlights of 2021 are the “warp speed” development of covid vaccines saving millions of lives, which also includes the deployment of the US James Webb Space Telescope, the restart of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and structural biology significant progress.

This strong thread of innovation continues in 2022 with meaningful advances in nuclear fusion, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, vaccine development, and mRNA-based applied research. Here are highlights from the past year:

Fusion: US announces first positive net energy fusion experiment ( Combine this with the progress made by the multinational consortium on sustained and controlled nuclear fusion, and fusion appears to have gone from an impractical alternative to a very real and attractive option that may be on the horizon for some time Deliver on its promise for a decade or so.

OpenAI-based products: Over the past few years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have made remarkable progress in solving everyday problems. This progress has been made possible by rapid improvements in chip processing speed and capacity. 2022 saw the development of Generative Pretrained Transformer 3 (GPT-3), the state-of-the-art language processing AI model developed by OpenAI. It is capable of generating human-like text and is expected to find wide-ranging applications. The main problem with language-processing AI models is that they can produce errors called “hallusions,” where the generated content is either nonsensical or not faithful to the source content. Mainstream tech companies like Google and Meta have avoided launching competing products for fear of a potentially hallucinatory backlash. ChatGPT, along with other products like DALL-E (converts text to images), CLIP which does the opposite, and Whisper (multilingual speech recognition), could be huge for a diverse country like India if it can reduce the hallucination rate influences.

At the same time, the field of artificial intelligence has made substantial progress with the development of deep learning chips that can run neural networks faster, the development of algorithms and frameworks for artificial intelligence modeling, and the ability of artificial intelligence to understand and respond to human behavior.

From quantum mechanics to quantum technology: Quantum technology is where AI was 20 years ago. Quantum mechanics, the science behind quantum technology, is based on the fundamental idea that objects have a dual existence of particles and waves. This duality leads directly to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states that it is impossible to precisely measure an object’s position and momentum at the same time. So far, the computer revolution has happened through semiconductors or “classical bits”. The quantum technology revolution is just beginning with the development and deployment of qubits, or qubits. Qubits offer infinitely more combinations than binary strings of 0s and 1s. Although it is still in its infancy, quantum computing and communications offer the potential to achieve extreme scale, solve complex problems and transform the field of cybersecurity.

Infectious Disease Vaccines: The rapid development of mRNA-based covid vaccines has reignited interest and momentum in vaccine research. After decades of research, a malaria vaccine called RTS,S/AS01 will be approved for use against Plasmodium falciparum in 2021 ( By 2022, millions of children in malaria-endemic areas will be vaccinated. Another vaccine developed by the same lab in Oxford as AstraZeneca’s distributed covid vaccine passed phase 3 trials in 2022 and could be approved for use this year. Both of these vaccines, and several others in development, follow the traditional adjuvanted approach of live-attenuated vaccines or inactivated pathogen vaccines, rather than the newer mRNA-based approach. There are many efforts underway for mRNA-based vaccine “platforms” that can target an entire class of viruses, including emerging viral mutations.

RNA methylation: Exciting progress has been made towards manipulating RNA in such a way that plant yields are dramatically increased while improving drought tolerance. A gene encoding a protein called FTO in rice and potato plants increased their yield by 300 percent in the lab and 50 percent in field trials. The process uses RNA methylation, a reversible modification of RNA that affects many biological processes and regulates gene expression. This has the potential to significantly increase yields without the pitfalls usually associated with genetic modification.

India is part of many global alliances at the forefront of science in the areas of nuclear fusion, structural biology and vaccine manufacturing. India’s R&D agenda must transition from Soviet-era stand-alone laboratories to institutes of excellence as part of the university system. Such a shift will be necessary to realize India’s aspirations to rise from a middle-income country to an upper-middle-income country.

PS: “I’m one of those who think that humanity will learn more good than evil from new discoveries”, said Marie Curie, a two-time Nobel laureate.

Narayan Ramachandran is the Chairman of InKlude Labs.Read Narayan’s Mint column at

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