Emerging Technologies in Energy & Environment
The Energy & Environment Crisis is an Opportunity in Disguise
Globalization is expected to double the level of industrialization in about 10 years, producing a commensurate increase in the demand for energy, pollution levels, global warming, and other aspects of the energy and environment crisis. Our forecasts show that today’s growth of green business should take off in three-five years, and governments are likely to take serious steps to curb global warming about the same time. Alternative energy sources – wind turbines, biofuels, nuclear plants, and solar cells – are growing 30-40% per year, roughly the same rate as Moore’s Law. The entire market for green technologies is expected to reach about $10 trillion in time, larger than autos, health care, and defense. In short, the present energy and environment mess actually offers a great opportunity in disguise.
Emerging Technologies in Information Technology
Information Technology Changes Everything
Computer power continues to double every two years, a second generation of optical, biological, and quantum computers is poised to take over in a decade, and artificial intelligence is automating routine mental tasks and raising the level of knowledge everywhere. These profound advances are moving life online into a virtual world that is ever-present and intelligent. The Web is the same age when color TV became the dominant force of the 20th century. Within a decade, people are likely to speak to high-fidelity images on large wall monitors while working, shopping, learning, and conducting almost all other social functions. You might buy something by simply talking with an onscreen robot that greets you by name, knows all the merchandise and displays it on demand, answers questions, and has infinite patience – the perfect salesperson. This suggests a tipping point is imminent as IT matures to transform economics, markets, lifestyles, and social institutions. The threats to existing businesses are likely to be vast – but so will the opportunities.
Emerging Technologies in E-Commerce
E-Commerce is Uniting the Globe
Most e-commerce today operates at about 10 -15% adoption levels, but our forecasts suggest that online shopping, publishing, education, entertainment, and other services are likely to reach the critical 30% adoption level soon where new businesses usually take off. And the huge populations of China, India, Brazil, and other developing countries are moving in droves to PCs, the Internet, and smart phones. We anticipate that four-five billion people will soon inhabit a digital world that is smarter, faster, and interactive, creating online markets of several trillion dollars. Instead of a liability, the poor actually represent a huge potential market for inexpensive goods. C.K. Prahalad, a leading business professor, said “The world’s four billion poor should be considered the biggest source of growth left.”
Emerging Technologies in Manufacturing
Manufacturing Goes High-Tech
The smoking factories of the Industrial Age are yielding to intelligent manufacturing systems operating worldwide to produce goods cheaply, quickly, and made to order. Research in materials and nanotechnology is making it possible to create almost any type of product, and mass customization can deliver an endless stream of sophisticated goods designed for individuals. The Japanese and Koreans have produced intelligent robots that can walk, climb stairs, and speak with humans, and they are finding work as office receptionists, security guards, and helpers in offices and homes. Driven by the pursuit of cheap labor and new markets, these changes are likely to bring industrialization to poor nations over the next few decades. However this economic growth is also producing mounting demand for scarce resources, increasing loads on the environment, and clashes between diverse cultures. An industrialized world will be a boon to business – but making it sustainable is an enormous challenge that will test us for decades.
Emerging Technologies in Medicine
Medical Advances Confer Mastery Over Life
A variety of breakthroughs is likely to provide mastery over the process of life itself. Artificial organs are being developed to replace almost all bodily functions, including parts of the brain, and stem cell research is increasingly able to repair organs. Electronic medical records, online doctor’s visits, computerized diagnostics, and other forms of telemedicine should curtail rising costs and improve quality of care. Nanotech is being used to develop tiny devices that are intelligent enough to seek out cancer cells, small enough to enter cells and destroy them, and are safely removed by the kidneys. The U.S. National Cancer Institute thinks cancer deaths could be eliminated by 2015. Just as the Industrial Age mastered most aspects of the physical world, these advances are now making it possible to master the biological world. Yes, it sounds too good to be true, but so did the notion that men could fly, much less travel to the moon.
Emerging Technologies in Transportation
Transportation Is Moving Faster and Farther
Our forecasts show that a new wave of green autos powered by hybrid, electric, and fuel cell engines should enter the mainstream about 2013 – 2018, and we are likely to see “intelligent cars” that may even drive themselves. So there are growth opportunities for automakers if Detroit can get its act together. It may seem that information systems could replace travel, but information forms a virtual world that parallels the physical world. People will always want to visit each other, handle the merchandise, and hammer out tough decisions together. The need for physical contact is inexhaustible, and studies show that growing virtual contact makes face-to-face relations more necessary.
Emerging Technologies in Space
Space is Going Private
CEO Richard Branson is scheduling the first suborbital flight of tourists aboard Virgin Galactic for 2010, and competitors are rushing their own plans, including visits to the Moon and space hotels. Just a few years ago the idea seemed laughable, but it now looks like space tourism will soon launch the realistic possibility of opening the final frontier to private ventures. Burt Rutan, who leads Virgin Galactic’s effort, said: “If we reach our goal of flying 100,000 people in the first ten to twelve years, you are going to see unusual creativity. As the thrill of experiencing space becomes available to almost anyone, it is easy to imagine the floodgates of entrepreneurial creativity opening to permit a rush of new ventures – roughly the way the Wild West was tamed by pioneers a century ago. Our experts estimate that people will commonly take orbital flights around the Earth as safely as airline flights in about 5 years, signaling a watershed from government control to free enterprise.