Beyond the disruption
The disruption that technology can be is seemingly limitless. This then asserts the only need for us is to re-imagine. The growth the technology companies have seen in the last two decades is an acknowledgment of this power; in 2006, there was tech company(Microsoft) in the top 5 most valued companies in the world, in 2020 all of them are tech companies. Marc Anderson’s “Software is eating the world” is a wonderful captive of this.
The wonders of yesterday are common occurrences today. All the technology disruptions today were speculative then. Making retrospective predictions, to think the change today was always bound to, is a comfort in condescendence. The better today is hard-fought from the inertia of change and the norm of incumbents through persistence and vision. This struggle, sometimes, is easily faded in text and thought.
So comes the wonderment from this for a constant vigil, alert, to continuously evaluate the present and make a cogent prediction of the future. Not all predictions may be right, but foresight matters. And here's an attempt to peer into the next couple of decades while yet trying to prevail pragmatism. It is very likely almost all of the below will happen and maybe much more — which is scintillating and exciting.
The last two decades brought maturity in the cloud, mobile, and to the internet. What can be the next wave of change across industries in the next two decades? The major industries that make up the global economy are Finance, Manufacturing, Transportation, Energy, Health & drug, Food & Agriculture, Consumer & durable good. Here is a look into one by one in detail.
Finance, the industry that is always open to exploring new technologies, has seen good adoption in machine learning and AI.
In its next mach, the financial industry will find its re-imagination with digital currency. Governments across the globe are reluctant now. However, in the next 20 years, Digital currency will find its regulation and embracement. China is leading the charge for the moment. Among other countries, the federal bank in the US and here in India, the RBI, is cautiously monitoring and evaluating. Sooner, they would want to match up with the Joneses. Though, it would be good if big democracies lead the change rather than follow.
The re-invention though will come from DeFi. Federal banks will never find acceptance in this. However, private players in this space will find their light and shine in the next couple of decades.
Manufacturing would find their quotidian norms altered in machine learning and AI through optimization, efficiency, and throughput; agreed, a lot of this is largely in practice.
Robotics would catch up a lot with the advancements in Computer Vision(CV). Robotics, so far, lay dormant awaiting maturity in computation power and machine learning algorithms. Also is the excitement around 3d-printing that is palpable and strongly embraced in the valley. 3D-printing will be a center-piece and will find its application of certitude, momentum in the next couple of decades.
Transportation is an industry that is going to have a venerable impact because of technology. Never has this industry been so inexorably intertwined with technology. Tesla Motors, a vanguard, re-imagined this. EV motors are largely run on software. Self-driving cars are nothing but Software on Wheels. Tesla’s stock meteoric rise in the recent past is a panegyric by the public of its admiration and appreciation of these advancements.
The Energy industry, like transportation, is going through its throes in its shift from fossil to renewable. Technology will be key in how optimally power is harnessed from panels, field mapping through drones, the placing of panels, and moving them to the time day. Smart Grids will be made possible by machine learning and AI.
Of Health & Drug, the Drug industry has already found its comrade in machine learning and AI as the biological tools for the race against time. Particularly evident of this change was during the pandemic — analyzing the DNA sequence to designing a potential model vaccine using algorithms. CRISPR is a field that would gain momentum.
Healthcare, however, hasn’t seen a strong adoption that is a disruption. A common sight of computers predicting diabetes/cancer, doing generic analysis using AI and knowledge-base systems, or assisting doctors in improving diagnosis accuracy is hard to come by. In the foreseeable, such applications will find wide acceptance.
Food & Agriculture. To say Agriculture hasn’t found its imagination with technology isn’t wild. However, smartphone penetration is changing this. The knowledge of the internet is seeping into the rural industry now. Soon, agriculture will see changes in farming from using machine learning and AI. Adopting weather pattern predictions, automated field monitoring with drones powered by AI, infections identification, instant soil analysis, suggestions, are phenomena that will become common.
The food industry will see a re-invention and a new definition of food in artificial meat and food. And machine learning will singularly lead this change through biological computing.
Consumer & durables in IoT, home automation, AR/VR, NLG will become extremely good — the evolution of GPT-3 in the next 2 decades will be nothing short of stunning. E-commerce will see a do or die in adopting AR/VR. This will also find its percolation to brick and mortar stores. Pop-up stores like “Amazon Go” will become the norm by the next couple of decades.
Easy to peer from all this is that technology will be the driving force of change for any industry in the coming century. And this circles to our earlier point — Would re-imagination alone let us make this happen? and if so, how fast? The answer lies in our social structures, and in our willingness to accept risk, failures, and bold visions.
Agreed, sometimes the driving forces behind these technologies may mislead or rest on unsustainable business models. As always, time will sift the grain from the chaff. And the cycle of re-invention, re-imagination will continue and we will prevail for the better.