What's the Big Idea?

The Monitor is examining five technologies destined (or likely) to change the world. On its list: a cellphone chip that allows monthly battery charge, using satellite 'spy' cameras for proof and prevention of human rights abuses, how villages leapfrog the grid with biometrics and mobile money, E-fabric spools used to make bullet-proof watches and paper-thin batteries, and artificial photosynthesis. Underwhelmed? The Monitor: "The most glamorous advances often didn't have that impact... The technologies that have changed the world often weren't the ones that allowed new and exciting things—but rather those that reduced the costs of doing things already possible."

What's the Latest Development?

Pending. Computers are pretty much energy-limited now. Transistors are these days crowded so tightly on chips that their heat threatens to cook computers. Before something as smart as Watson comes to ordinary peoples' laptops and smart phones, engineers must build more-efficient computers that circumvent current energy limits. "Whichever technology succeeds will push the world to a different place."