The Industries of the Future Hardcover – 2 Feb 2016
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'In a world growing more chaotic, Alec Ross is one of those very rare people who can see patterns in the chaos and provide guidance for the road forward. He has an unusual diversity of expertise that allows him to apply multiple lenses to the world's challenges and dream up the kind of innovative solutions that are changing the world.'
-Eric Schmidt, Former CEO of Google and author of The New Digital Age
'How can we prepare our children and ourselves to succeed in a world of robotics, globalization and digitally driven markets? In this valuable book, Alec Ross analyzes what it will take to survive and even thrive. The future is already hitting us and Ross shows how it can be exciting rather than frightening.'
-Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators
'The next 20 years are going to be even faster-moving and more transformative than the 20 we just lived through. Predicting exactly what is going to happen is impossible. But thinking systematically and strategically, as Alec Ross does here, about robotics, genomics, and the codification of everything is absolutely critical. Anyone who wants to understand the key forces that are shaping our economic, political, and social futures will benefit hugely from Ross's insights.'
Reid Hoffman, Founder & Chairman, LinkedIn
'It will likely be one of 2016's most talked about releases, and I predict will take its place alongside other classic tech-and-society books, like Tim Wu's Master Switch and Jonathan Zittrain's Future of the Internet. It's that good. His writing reveals not just where industries are heading, but where entire societies may end up as a result. This is important reading. Ross takes on an enormous challenge of making sense of how new technology is changing the world, and does so incredibly well, by any standard.'
'This book is a must read for the rising generation and their concerned parents and educators. Alec Ross brings a far-reaching perspective to bear in illustrating the opportunities to be seized in our changing world - across sectors and the globe - and the kind of preparation that will be important to make the most of them.'
Wendy Kopp, Founder of Teach For America and CEO of Teach For All
'A lucid and informed guide, even on the most technical issues.'
'A brilliant, captivating description of the profound changes that will be ushered in by advances in robotics, big data, and genomics and of the implications of those developments for employment, wealth distribution, and global trade. Alec Ross combines an extraordinary understanding of future trends with an equally extraordinary ability to describe those trends and explain what they mean for the world in the decades ahead.'
General (Ret.) David H. Petraeus, Chairman, KKR Global Institute; former Commander of the Surge in Iraq and Director of the CIA
'The Industries of the Future is an engaging, clear-eyed look at the benefits and challenges of the coming wave of global innovation. Alec Ross, with his years of passionate work in the public and private sectors, is uniquely positioned to understand and explain where we re coming from and where we re going.'
'Asks big questions to help prepare us for the inevitable, and is an important read for everyone from businesspeople to parents to teachers.'
'A wide-ranging and smoothly written prospectus on the near future of innovation. It's a whirlwind tour, incisively covering economics, politics, cyberwarfare, genomics, and the complexities of Big Data among many other things in language for the layperson interested in what tomorrow could bring.'
'This astute and enlightening book is generous with insight about what the future holds and how best to prepare for it.'
'Discerning insights on approaching changes to our economic and social landscapes and solid advice on how we should navigate them.'
About the Author
Alec Ross is one of America's leading experts on innovation. He served for four years as Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a role created for him by Senator Clinton, which earned him a Distinguished Honor Award from the State Department. He is currently a Senior Fellow at Columbia University's School of International & Public Affairs and serves as an advisor to investors, corporations and government leaders. Ross lives in Baltimore with his wife and their three young children.
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Some insights about what will happen next are interesting (you should soon be able to tweak your own genes, big data is –well– big, money is no longer made in manufacturing stuff but in design and clever marketing, Uber is here to stay). This is IMHO a good round up of what's in store.
Despite the large number of references to papers and articles, I have the nagging feeling that Alec Ross has adopted an angle (spoiler alert here: if you are not in the digital economy by tomorrow morning, some guy in Estonia will eat your bacon sandwich) but has conveniently disposed of the nuances and the "if things carry on exactly the way they go now" - and we know they don't always do.
Long and short, it is a good outlook on the near digital future, but you will probably want something a bit more high octane if you like the specifics and a more nuanced approach.
Before I read this book I would say anything environmental, AI, robotics, biotech (that include genetics), IoT, neuroscience, space, gaming and health. There is obvious overlap between those sectors. Just imagine a huge box full of lego blocks, combining these technologies with mobile, nano, virtual reality, big data, augmenting, biomimicry, material science, quantum physics and you have a Pandora’s box of industries we have not even imagined.
Alec Ross thinks that the industries of the future are robotics, advanced life sciences, the codification of money, cyber security, and big data. Not much to argue there, although in my view very limited and almost too easy.
North Korea or Estonia
What the book does do is show the countries that are ahead and the once that are behind, and the book puts the industries into a geopolitical, cultural, and generational context. All 196 countries in the world have a choice. You can be North Korea or Estonia. That goes for your company too.
Europe versus Japan
I would suggest it will make for unhappy reading for European policy makers and there is no doubt, power is shifting East. Japan already leads the world in robotics, operating 310,000 of the 1.4 million industrial robots in existence across the world. Driven by an increasingly older population, they have particularly focussed on elderly care and health. That includes augmentation, which is a growth sector all on its own. Other counties to watch in robotics are China, the United States, South Korea, and Germany.
What everyone needs to consider, and here is the Pandora’s lego box again, is when robotics get combined with big data, cloud (all robots connected and learning), AI, nano and biology. No wonder venture capital funding in robotics is growing at a steep rate. It more than doubled in just three years, from $160 million in 2011 to $341 million in 2014. The market for consumer robots could hit $390 billion by 2017, and industrial robots should hit $40 billion in 2020.
The number of robotic procedures is increasing by about 30 percent a year, and more than 1 million Americans have already undergone robotic surgery, and it is growing exponentially. It is quite amazing what robots are doing already, from hunting jelly fish and hunting cancer to hair washing, waiting tables, cleaning floor but also teaching maths and anything in between. There is no doubt, as the technology continues to advance, robots will kill many jobs.
Two Oxford University professors who studied more than 700 detailed occupational types have published a study making the case that over half of US jobs could be at risk of computerization in the next two decades. Forty-seven percent of American jobs are at high risk for robot takeover, and another 19 percent face a medium level of risk.
Singularity, when, not if
The level of investment in robotics (including drones, self-driving cars, etc.), combined with advances in technology are setting the foundation for the 2020s to produce breakthroughs in robotics that bring today’s science fiction right. Including singularity which is expected somewhere between 2023 (Vernor Vinge) and 2045 (Ray Kurzweil). We have moved from “if” to “when”.
That is why China is not just relying on forced urbanisation to produce low-cost labour; it is also investing heavily in the industries of the future. Every country needs to invest in growing fields like robotics but also invest in a social framework that makes sure those who are losing their jobs are able to stay afloat long enough to pivot to the industries or positions that offer new possibilities. Humans are not as easy to upgrade as software.
That is the robotic industry. Now for life sciences. The size of the genomics market was estimated at a little more than $11 billion in 2013 and is going to grow faster than anyone could imagine. We are talking DNA sequencing, precision medicine, designer babies, neuroscience (the genetics of suicide), xenotransplantation and Jurassic Park.
With 78 organs, 206 bones, and 640 muscles, not to mention up to 25,000 genes, our bodies are complicated machines. We are hacking the machine, part by part. As a result, we will live longer lives, but our lives will grow more complicated as we manage
Including and particularly in the world of cyber security If you have read “Future Crimes“, you really want augmentation, DNA and robots to be secure. A hacked care robot hovering over your bed with a knife is not something you want. A hacked augmented hand strangling you is also not a prospect you would relish. Let alone someone hacking your voice, your DNA, or your brain.
Hacking. Malware. Virus. Worm. Trojan horse. Distributed denial-of-service. Cyber attack. The terms for the weaponisation of code are by now well known, but we are just beginning to understand their full implications.
175 billion industry
Over the 20 years from 2000 to 2020, the cyber security market will have grown from a $3.5 billion market employing a few thousand people working in IT departments to a $175 billion market providing critical infrastructure. Cyber has grown into such a mission-critical function that every Fortune 500 board chairman now should make sure he or she has a board member with cyber expertise. In five years, any board of directors without a board member with expertise in cyber will be perceived as a shortcoming of corporate governance.
Combine that with what will be a $19 trillion global market in the Internet of Things and we are creating an almost unimaginable new set of vulnerabilities and openings for cyber security hacks.For example, in July 2015, hackers managed to remotely infiltrate and shut down a Jeep Cherokee while it was speeding along the highway. Did you know that GPS is hackable? Don’t trust your Tom-Tom.
Long term cyber attacks pose a greater threat to national security than terrorism. We have moved from cold war to code war.
Alec Ross other favourite future industry is coded money, blockchain and fintech and how that will transform local and global economies, particularly Africa. M-Pesa and Shwari as examples. But also the sharing economy. At last measure, the estimated size of the global sharing economy was $26 billion, and it’s growing fast, with some estimates projecting it will be more than 20 times larger in size by 2025. Read “Machines, Platforms, Crowds“.
The last industry he mentions is big data, quantified self and algorithms. Did you know that an estimated one-third of all marriages in the United States begin with online dating which is run through an algorithm? The best quote of the book is this one “Serendipity fades with everything we hand over to algorithms”.
Impact on your business
Alec Ross is spot on. None of those industries can be ignored and they will impact on your business. Robotics, cyber, big data, coded money will do so very soon.
What are we going to do?
The question is what policy makers are going to do about it. If you read “The Seventh Sense”, politicians are the last ones to understand what goes on. And it not about:
Mix in R&D labs and university centres;
Provide incentives to attract scientists, firms and users;
Interconnect the industry through consortia and specialised suppliers;
Protect intellectual property and tech transfer;
Establish a favourable business environment and regulations.
It is about broadband infrastructure, women (“women hold up half the sky”), openness, domain expertise, quality of life, the flow of ideas, innovation and yes, creating active serendipity.
What are you going to do?
Or look at some examples of good practice such as Singapore, Estonia, Japan and China versus Belarus, North Korea and Venezuela. Which one do you want to be?
I want to be Estonia (or Japan).