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Return to the Future

From the editor in chief

In our november/december 1999 issue, technology review profiled 100 young innovators who we said were going to create the future. Now we’re going to do it again.

The first “TR100” were a remarkable bunch, technologists and entrepreneurs whose accomplishments belied their youth (all were under 35 when chosen). We focused on youth as a way of helping our readers understand the future, which is, after all, our mission. We decided that it’s way too hard to actually predict the future. (Even very smart people belly-flop when they try it.) But it is possible to identify some of those who will make large contributions to the not-too-distant future of technology, say the next decade or two.

How do we do that? Well, we spread our net as wide as possible. First of all we’re asking all of you, our readers, to nominate young innovators whose work you think will have broad impact. You can find a nomination form at

After tapping your collective knowledge, we’re going to turn to several other critical networks. First is a distinguished Panel of Judges, including some of the world’s most accomplished scientists, technologists and business people. Second is the previous TR100 themselves, the group that is in some ways best placed to identify its peers. Last, but certainly not least, here in our offices in Cambridge, our editors and writers will be using their accumulated editorial experience to find likely prospects.

When we’ve collected enough names (the first time around we had close to 1,000), we’ll begin the process of sorting, screening and judging them to yield a final winnowing of 100. We’ll be looking in five critical technology areas, which are, not coincidentally, the areas this magazine covers regularly: hardware, software, telecommunications and the Web, biotechnology, and materials science (including nanotechnology). Of course, there will be a few creative oddballs whose work doesn’t fit neatly into any of those big five categories; we’ll throw them in too, in the spirit of innovation and subversion.

But that’s just the beginning. After we’ve picked the 100 (and decided on one from their ranks to designate as our “Innovator of the Year” at a gala event here at MIT in December), we’ll use their collective brainpower to try and beat the odds and predict the future. We’ll ask each and every one of them to name the key developments in their own fields and talk to us about how those trends will unfold over the next couple of decades. They will know the answers better than anyone else, since they are betting their budding and miraculous careers on picking correctly.

When we’ve assembled the profiles and mined the group’s collective wisdom, we’ll put the results together for you in a special January/February 2002 issue, which we think will be one of our most exciting packages yet.

We think the TR100 project is special in some of the same ways that our magazine as a whole is special. The project is upbeat about the future of technology, but at the same time firmly rooted in reality. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is or succumb to the latest fads and hype. At the same time, it provides a far better guide to the most important emerging trends in technology than just about any other source. Enjoy it-and, even better, participate by naming your favorite young innovator.

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