February 25, 2021

This list marks 20 years since we began compiling an annual selection of the year’s most important technologies. Some, such as mRNA vaccines, are already changing our lives, while others are still a few years off. Below, you’ll find a brief description along with a link to a feature article that probes each technology in detail. We hope you’ll enjoy and explore—taken together, we believe this list represents a glimpse into our collective future.


Messenger RNA vaccines

We got very lucky. The two most effective vaccines against the coronavirus are based on messenger RNA, a technology that has been in the works for 20 years. When the covid-19 pandemic began last January, scientists at several biotech companies were quick to turn to mRNA as a way to create potential vaccines; in late December 2020, at a time when more than 1.5 million had died from covid-19 worldwide, the vaccines were approved

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Progressives are enraged with Facebook and trying to fight back. | Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It’s called the Project for Good Information, and it raises big questions about the future of the information wars.

A prominent Democratic strategist is planning a new $65 million effort to push progressive local news around the United States as part of an attempt to match the dominance of right-wing media, Recode has learned.

The organization, whose formation hasn’t previously been reported, is called the Project for Good Information (PGI). It’s being created by Tara McGowan, a Democratic strategist who has spent the last few years at her current organization, Acronym, trying to encourage her party to counter far-right media with liberal content. She has fans among influential Democrats and donors but has also attracted controversy from journalism groups concerned that her advocacy efforts masquerade as unbiased media, as well as from some fellow Democrats … Read the rest


Early this winter, I took a long walk in the Salt Lake City park in which I had been arrested for bathing in a river when I was homeless.

About 30 minutes into that walk, I stood across from the park’s granite meditation temple, thinking: Three and a half years ago, I slept under that building’s awning.

I can still feel how hard that temple’s cold stone floor was; I remember how people strolled by my bed of cardboard and clothes and stared with what struck me as a combination of concern, contempt, and pity. Now I see that these are also the lenses through which I have often judged my own progress in my new, not-yet-middle-class life.

These days, I often wonder: Am I really doing as well as I should be after all this time? How did I ever allow myself to fall so far? Trying to get Read the rest


Joe Rogan in 2013. | Vivian Zink/Syfy/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

The service is paying big money to big stars. But people who aren’t famous — maybe even you, the person reading this — might want to upload some stuff, too.

Spotify started out as a legal way to stream popular music. Then it flirted, unsuccessfully, with becoming a video company, too. Now it is trying out a new identity: It wants normal people, not just people you’ve heard of, to start uploading songs and podcasts — and then it wants to make money getting those songs and podcasts out to many, many more people.

Spotify still wants the biggest stars in the world on its service. That’s why it spends most of its money on licensing deals with the big music labels, and why it paid a ton of money to sign podcast king Joe Rogan last summer. And it’s … Read the rest


A leaked scientific report jointly prepared by Israel’s health ministry and Pfizer claims that the company’s covid-19 vaccine is stopping nine out of 10 infections and the country could approach herd immunity by next month.

The study, based on the health records of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, finds that the vaccine may sharply curtail transmission of the coronavirus. “High vaccine uptake can meaningfully stem the pandemic and offers hope for eventual control of the pandemic as vaccination programs ramp up across the rest of the world,” according to the authors.

The nationwide study was described by the Israeli news website Ynet on Thursday, and a copy was obtained by MIT Technology Review.

The findings are important because Israel is leading the world in vaccinating its population, turning the country into real-life laboratory to understand if vaccines can end the pandemic.

So far Israel has fully vaccinated 32% of its … Read the rest


Apple’s App Store privacy labels are here — but do they help? | Apple

They’re not perfect, but App Store users still get something out of them.

Open Sourced logo

Apple’s privacy “nutrition labels” have been in the App Store for just over two months now. Privacy advocates were generally pleased to see these easy-to-read versions of app privacy policies; educating users about the secretive inner workings of their apps is almost always a positive development.

The labels are just one of Apple’s new policies to give users more privacy at the possible expense of the app economy, which largely relies on collecting and selling furtively acquired user data. In early spring, Apple will release iOS 14.5, which will force apps to get user permission to track users across different apps for ad targeting, a move that Facebook has vocally opposed — and its exceedingly long labels may be a good hint as … Read the rest


Democracies around the world are all mired in one crisis or another, which is why measures of their health are trending in the wrong direction. Many look at the decline of the news industry as one contributing factor. No wonder, then, that figuring out how to pay for journalism is an urgent issue, and some governments are pushing ahead with ambitious plans. Big ideas for ways to funnel billions of dollars back into newsrooms are rare, but it’s time to take a gamble on more than one. 

Such an idea rose to the world’s attention this week: an Australian law that would compel search and social media platforms to pay news organizations for linking to their content. Google has decided to comply with the law and is doing deals with major companies such as News Corp, Nine, and Seven West Media. But Facebook took the other route—rather than pay for … Read the rest


An activist dressed as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Belgium, which also has a few fans in favor of government regulations on Big Tech. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

The social media giant cut millions of Australians off from the news to protest a potential law with a lot of flaws.

Open Sourced logo

Facebook’s sudden move on Wednesday to cut Australians off from the news (and the rest of the world from Australian news) was as surprising as it was draconian. It blocked Australians from sharing any news links, Australian news publications from hosting their content on the platform, and the rest of us from sharing links to Australian news sites. It also may be a preview of how the platform will respond to the almost-certain future attempts to regulate its business — not just in Australia, but all over the world.

Now that we’ve had a few days to see how it’s … Read the rest


How did this app get approved?

What you need to know

  • Apple has pulled an app from the App Store the promoted gathering during the pandemic.
  • The app, called Vybe Together, encouraged people to “get your rebel on.”

Reported by The Verge, Apple has taken an app off of the App Store that promoted people to attend parties during the COVID-19 pandemic. The app, called Vybe Together, has also been banned from TikTok.

The app had billed itself as a way for people to plan and find underground parties and “get your rebel on.”

Vybe Together billed itself on TikTok and its website as a place to organize and attend underground parties, using the tagline “Get your rebel on. Get your party on.” Organizers would have to approve everyone who wanted to attend, and the ones that got approved would receive the address two hours before the event. Most

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  • The AirPods Pro 2 might come in two different sizes, according to images showing purported AirPods components.
  • Several reports have claimed that Apple is developing a new AirPods Pro version, looking to reduce earphone size and possibly eliminate the stem.
  • The new AirPods Pro version is expected to launch in 2021, but there’s no firm release date for it.

Open an AirPods Pro box, and the first thing you see is the actual product. The two wireless earphones sit inside their case and are ready for use. Inside the box, you’ll also find different replaceable rubber tips so that you can get the best possible fit. That’s just one of the advantages of the AirPods Pro over the regular AirPods. The Pros also have a much smaller footprint than the original models, as the stem has been significantly reduced. More importantly, the AirPods Pro offer active noise cancellation support, a … Read the rest