Monday, July 25, 2016

Magazine Monday: Review of MIT Technology Review

 by Steven D. Mathews, Library Assistant
The Yocum Library subscribes to the print edition of MIT Technology Review, a bimonthly magazine dedicated to leading the “global conversation about technologies that matter.” Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, the MIT Technology Review was founded long before computers in 1899 as The Technology Review.

MIT Technology Review only publishes six issues annually, which provides space for the editors to focus each issue on a central theme. Even though it’s apparently common knowledge that technology fuels progressive change, the challenges technologies still face seem to be decades old. For example, the first issue of 2016 (January/February) features many articles on climate change and global warming, such as “Stop Emissions!” and “A Sensible Climate Policy.”

Other issues focus on achieving technological landmarks written in the form of rankings and lists, such as the “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2016” section in the March/April issue and the “50 Smartest Companies” feature in the July/August “Business” issue. The former is incredibly intriguing as each technology is given an availability time span estimate from now to 2026.

For example, in the next year or two, the ability to genetically engineer immune cells, known as “killer T cells,” in clinical trials for leukemia patients should expand to cases of individualized cancer, HIV, arthritis, lupus, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Because this method has been shown to “hunt and destroy” leukemia in some patients—famously, last fall, in a one-year-old girl from the UK named Layla Richards—the gene editing biotechnology has taken the interest of Google’s life science unit. Google has taken as its goal to generate “big data about what immune system cells are actually doing inside a tumor, and new clues about how to influence them.” The central trope is that these cells act like “little robots.” The article also publishes a timeline of human investigation into “engineering immunity” from the late-eighteenth-century to present.

Technologies that are available right now include the following: Tesla Autopilot, a system that was developed to eliminate accidents due to human error—but, unfortunately, it has caused a few fatalities recently; Slack, the group messaging platform that is rapidly replacing the increasingly clunky status of e-mail communication; and the development of voice and natural language recognition to make it easier to talk to our smartphones and computers instead of typing.

Besides the articles themselves, the layout of the print magazine makes reading easy on the eyes. Each issue has several images and photographs inspired by article content and not every page is full of text. I really like the larger font of the page numbers, the enlarged quotes in each article, and the way the authors summarize the often complex content into vital nuggets on the margins or at the beginning of articles.

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