STANFORD EMERGING TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
Reporting on Key Technology Areas and their Policy Implications
The Stanford Emerging Technology Review (SETR) is the first product of a major new Stanford technology education initiative for policymakers. Our goal is to help both the public and private sectors better understand the technologies poised to transform our world so that the United States can seize opportunities, mitigate risks, and ensure that the American innovation ecosystem continues to thrive.
Our efforts are guided by four observations:
Policymakers need better resources to help them understand technological developments faster, continuously, and more easily.
America’s global innovation leadership matters.
Academia’s role in American innovation is essential yet increasingly at risk.
The view from Stanford is unique, important and needed now more than ever.
This report is intended to be a useful “one-stop shopping” primer that covers ten key emerging technology areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology and synthetic biology, cryptography, materials science, neuroscience, nuclear technologies, robotics, semiconductors, space technologies, and sustainable energy technologies. While this is nowhere near an exhaustive list of technology research areas at Stanford, these ten fields are rapidly shaping American society today and promise to gain importance in the coming years.
Ensuring American leadership in science and technology requires all of us—academia, industry, government—to keep listening, learning, and working together. We hope the Stanford Emerging Technology Review starts meaningful and lasting conversations about how an innovation ecosystem benefits us all. The promise of emerging technology is boundless if we have the foresight to understand it and the fortitude to embrace the challenges.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of computers to perform functions associated with the human brain, including perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting, problem solving, and exercising creativity.
Biotechnology creates products or services in partnership with biology. Synthetic biology is third-generation biotechnology, complementing domestication and breeding (the first generation) and gene editing (the second generation).
Cryptography is the practice of protecting data from being altered or accessed inappropriately. It is essential for most internet activity, including messaging, e-commerce, and banking. There are two main types of cryptography: symmetric and asymmetric.
Materials science is a foundational technology that underlies advances in many fields, including robotics, space, energy, and synthetic biology.
A brain-machine interface is a device that maps neural impulses from the brain to a computer and vice versa. There are many potential applications for this technology: sensory replacement or augmentation, replacement of severed limbs, direct mind-to-computer interfacing, or even computer assisted memory recall and cognition.
Energy can be produced from two types of nuclear reactions: fission and fusion.
Robotics has and will transform many industries through elimination, modification, or creation of jobs and functions. Robots are human-made physical entities with ways of sensing themselves or the world around them and the ability to create physical effects on that world.
Chips must be designed and then manufactured, calling for two different skill sets. Recent research has identified methods that allow innovations in materials, devices, fabrication, and hardware to be added to existing process or systems at low incremental costs. These methods need to be further developed since they will be essential to continue to improve the computing infrastructure we all depend on.
Space technology is any technology developed for the purpose of conducting or supporting activities beyond the Kármán line (i.e., one hundred kilometers or sixty-two miles above the Earth’s surface).
The transition to sustainable energy relies on improving every step of the energy supply chain, from generation to transmission to storage. However, the sheer scale of global energy needs makes it clear that no single technology can meet these demands.
Dr. Herb Lin is Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution and senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, both at Stanford University. His research interests relate broadly to policy-related dimensions of cybersecurity and cyberspace, and he is particularly interested in the use of offensive operations in cyberspace as instruments of national policy and in the security dimensions of information warfare and influence operations on national security. In addition to his positions at Stanford University, he is Chief Scientist, Emeritus for the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies, where he served from 1990 through 2014 as study director of major projects on public policy and information technology, and Adjunct Senior Research Scholar and Senior Fellow in Cybersecurity (not in residence) at the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies in the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University; and a member of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. In 2016, he served on President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. Prior to his NRC service, he was a professional staff member and staff scientist for the House Armed Services Committee (1986-1990), where his portfolio included defense policy and arms control issues. He received his doctorate in physics from MIT.To read more about Herb Lin's interests, see "An Evolving Research Agenda in Cyber Policy and Security."Avocationally, he is a longtime folk and swing dancer and a lousy magician. Apart from his work on cyberspace and cybersecurity, he is published in cognitive science, science education, biophysics, and arms control and defense policy. He also consults on K-12 math and science education.
Stanford Emerging Technology Review Fellows
Senior Research Staff
Student Research Assistants
Stanford University is tightly coupled to the scientific and technological innovation ecosystem and has been for many years. The Stanford Emerging Technology Review (SETR) is an effort to produce a periodic report for policy and leadership audiences that accounts for new and important scientific and technical developments at Stanford University across ten technological areas and identifies barriers, needs, and opportunities for progress in each area.
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The Hoover Institution and Stanford School of Engineering have launched the inaugural edition of the Stanford Emerging Technology Review, a project and publication dedicated to the forefront of technologies shaping the global landscape.