This post is an answer to the question originally published on Quora
The internet, probably the most important technological innovation in the last century, has triggered great social innovations. What kind of technologies will trigger the next social innovations?
I believe that what triggers social innovation is not technology but social challenges in other words: the existence of a need for a solution.
My thought is that technology is what makes certain innovation possible. It’s what socially innovative services, programs, business models and products build on.
I believe that the technologies which have the most potential in facilitating new social impacts are the following:
3D Printing which could become essential to manage future environmental or political crisis by quickly providing people in need with a roof as well as help building social housing in a faster and more efficient way. 3D printing can also help us make prosthetics cheaper and more convenient, for example.
Solar Panels which impacts on the world is only starting to be explored, could be instrumental in the future of developing countries by making electricity and drinkable water more widely accessible. Yes, you read well, you can make drinkable water with solar panels, yes water.
Artifical Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Automation which have the potential to free human attention of repetitive low-level tasks and help us focus on analysis information, taking complex decisions or even help us make better choices like in diagnostics or the prediction of the incidence and severity of new health risks, for example
Blockchains which would allow us to build smart contracts, to securely transact sensitive data in industries such as Finance and Healthcare and beyond
Virtual and Augmented Reality which are already proven very useful in healthcare, for example, where they are used for training of surgeons as well as to create groundbreaking treatments of mental disorders such as PTSD
Nanotechnologies which could end up helping us re-engineer our bodies and be very useful to detect cancer, heal burn and bones and much more
5G which will allow greater performances of devices, where made available, and make possible a new smartphone era and consequently many more applications designed by social entrepreneurs
Autonomous vehicles, drones, and robots which could help redefine industries, redistribute resources, reduce errors and make previously impossible things possible such as delivering vital emergency supplies to previously inaccessible area
Internet of Things and wearables which could help prevent death by informing dear ones of danger, an accident, a fall or by improving the efficiency of processes, systems, homes, and cities
These are just a few examples of the positive social use of emerging technologies. Most of them still face challenges such as price/accessibility, interoperability, and security and have the potential to hurt us greatly, but this is another conversation.
I’m a social innovator in the making who co-founded the social impact startup Linkedin. I love tech & innovation and work to build a fairer and more sustainable world. You can follow me on twitter at: and connect on