Software engineers in Africa came up with artificial intelligence-powered health-care chatbots and robot virus-testing, while 3D-printing communities around the world mass-produced protective face shields. Simultaneously, two missions landed on Mars—one Chinese, one American—while a third from the United Arab Emirates orbited the red planet, reminding the world that journeys into distant space offer hope for solutions to many problems back home.
Behind all of these breakthroughs are scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and policymakers. They are catalysts. Collectively, these remarkable figures inspire new ideas, fresh thinking and novel approaches to old quandaries. But most importantly, they incite action.
At the Bloomberg New Economy, we are celebrating the achievements of catalysts like Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa, who is using AI and drones to reshape the fight against cancer; Megan McArthur, who is piloting NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station; Henrietta Moon, the creator of a carbon removal system that may sequester CO2 for 1,000 years; Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, who is planting 1 million trees in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to build climate resilience; Justin Gong who is leveraging agri-tech to transform farming in China; and Sandhya Sriram, who is helping to create a sustainable supply of seafood.
The Earth is fragile, and humanity has pushed it to the brink with a rapacious disregard for the future. Yet there are forces among us who may be more powerful. This global health crisis has showcased technologies decades in the making that are capable of transforming life itself. In the hands of catalysts, these new tools are ready to deliver a host of applications to help rescue an imperiled world.
Amid the suffering that continues all across the planet, there remains hope: Humankind has just entered a new era of discovery. These are the explorers leading the way. —Andrew Browne
CEO and co-founder, Zilingo
Many people see the problems with fast fashion—a $2.4 trillion industry with major carbon emissions and waste which is also rife with child labor—as fatal flaws of e-commerce. But Ankiti Bose saw an opportunity to innovate. She founded Zilingo at the age of 23 to help give small merchants easy access to technology, working capital and economies of scale so they can build and expand global businesses. With an initiative to offer financing for female factory workers (notably in India and Thailand) so they can work from home, Bose is distributing more than just ethical fashion—she’s helping to distribute power.
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