Emerging technologies have shaped investing decisions and economic outcomes for as long as there has been investment and economic activity. But today, the influence of emerging technologies is greater than ever before. This has a great deal to do with the rapid pace of change in our hyper-globalized world, and the unprecedented ability of technological innovation to scale. The impact of emerging technologies is also intensified by the need for rapid innovation. In this article we’ll explore what, exactly, emerging technology is. We’ll go on to look at some examples of new emerging technologies before zeroing in on their relevance for the business world.
What Is Emerging Technology?
First thing’s first: what is emerging technology? For an emerging technology definition, we will use the term to mean any imminent, but not fully realized, technological innovations that will have some impact on the status quo. When it comes to emerging technologies, things can change quickly. No more than 15 years ago, the job of the truck driver was considered quite safe, according to researchers assessing the likelihood of job displacement based on existing technology and reasonable forecasts of progress. But more recent assessments are drastically different. Self-driving trucks are now considered highly likely in the next decade. And AI-enabled self-driving trucks are just one of many examples of emerging technologies.
New Emerging Technologies
New emerging technologies can shape outcomes in every industry, as well as on cross-industrial, macroeconomic scales. Let’s look at a few emerging technology examples in different industries.
Emerging Technology in Healthcare
Emerging technology in healthcare is often some of the most highly anticipated and highly visible innovation. Because of health’s centrality to the human experience, people give it special priority. This incentivizes innovation in the field. What makes any given emerging technology powerful is when it spurs innovations in multiple industries or sub-industries. For example, advances in computing and artificial intelligence may revolutionize the development of vaccines, as well as other pharma- and biotech. Simulated, digital patients may soon be able to replace human patients in clinical trials. This could rapidly accelerate the rate of innovation of new technologies.
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Emergent Space Technologies
Space exploration has been the bleeding edge of emerging technologies for decades. Emerging space technologies frequently spread to other industries. However, the visibility of the link between space exploration and the rest of the economy has diminished in recent decades. But a new generation of businessmen have been trying to change that. NASA has increasingly been partnering with private capital to work toward the goal of commercial space exploration. The first space cruise to the moon is a matter of when, not if.
Emerging Technologies in Education
Many of us tout the need for educational innovation in our public rhetoric. But the benefits of emerging technologies in education are often slower to gain visibility than emerging technologies in other industries. Probably the most obvious emerging technologies in education involve advances in tablet computing and mobile/remote communication. The pandemic has accelerated the already-underway transition to more mobile and remote learning, with a heavy integration of digital technology. In 2021, this may not seem like a monumental transition, but the shift to digital will have deep and unpredictable impacts on the world of education.
Emerging Technologies for Business
Business itself, including the management consulting industry, is also affected by emerging technologies. Some examples of emerging technologies for business likely to disrupt status quo operations are 5G communications, facial recognition, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain-based storage and currency.
The American research firm Gartner has developed the concept of the hype cycle to describe the stages of adoption of newly emerging tech, particularly applicable in business scenarios. The Hype Cycle for emerging technologies consists of five phases:
- The Technology Trigger
- The Peak of Inflated Expectations
- Troughs of Disillusionment
- Slope of Enlightenment
- Plateau of Productivity
This framework is a useful lens through which businesspeople and consultants can understand the proliferation of innovation in the broader economy.
Center for Security and Emerging Technology
If you’re approaching things from an investor perspective, it’s easy to see emerging technologies primarily as capitalist innovations to either utilize or be defeated by. However, the impact goes further than any single organization’s bottom line. Emerging technologies can have real impacts on national security. The next generation of think tanks and research institutes are increasingly paying attention to emerging technologies. Perhaps chief among them is the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, a policy research institute situated within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. The institute lists artificial intelligence, advanced computing, and biotechnology as primary areas of focus.
We live today in a world largely defined by yesterday’s emerging technologies. We would be well served to pay increasing attention to the potential impacts of emerging technologies. These impacts include opportunities as well as threats, and will shape the future in ways yet unseen. Businesspeople have a unique opportunity to pioneer the path forward in embracing emerging technologies!
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